By Kelly Carr
We recognize that no two people will think exactly alike on a matter. How does this translate when working in the church with brothers and sisters in Christ? Conflicts will rear their ugly heads. How do we react?
I asked two people who have served the church for decades if they would share positive and negative examples of differing opinions in the church. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent—and guilty!
Ex. 1: Broken Relationship
A congregation had just gone through a major event. One man thought the process was unorganized. He also felt underutilized because he had previous experience with such events and was disappointed that the minister didn’t ask for his help.
Rather than going first to speak to the minister about the matter, the man went to the elders after church on a Sunday when the preacher was absent and began to rant about his troubles. The elders listened but told the man that he should have spoken to the preacher first. The elders understood some of his concerns but also told him that there were details he wasn’t aware of that were taken into consideration. They ended in prayer and followed up later, making sure all was settled.
A month later, a new detail in the church bothered the man. It seemed this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and sadly the man and his wife left the congregation.
Ex. 2: Healed in Time
A volunteer had been leading an outreach ministry to children. She felt one church staff member undervalued the ministry and avoided making announcements for help or support.
When the volunteer got into a disagreement with the staff member on how the ministry should be run, she prayed about it. She stated her opinions but then felt it was time to step away and let others lead who agreed with the new direction.
After some time, the volunteer went to the staff member and confessed her part in the disagreement. The staff member accepted her apology yet did not confess his own role in the argument. The volunteer continued to serve in other areas of the church and tried to maintain friendliness, though she was guarded.
Many months later the camaraderie was renewed between the volunteer and staff member. The volunteer found out that the staff member had some positive life changes which seemed to bring a new vigor for his ministry. Prayers, patience, and space had brought about peace.
The people I interviewed have learned a lot through the different disagreements they’ve seen over the years in two different congregations. Some resolved well and some did not.
The biggest advice they have is: “Stop, pray, and sleep on it a night before opening your mouth to respond to conflict. Sometimes that’s not easy. When you care about a ministry, it’s hard not to take disagreements personally. But it’s possible to work things out and keep serving together.”