Today we are thankful to share a guest blog from our friend Stu Strachan, pastor and founder of The Pastor’s Workshop, which offers curated resources for ministry leaders.
Part of being a pastor is dealing with conflict. Everyone has to deal with conflict in their relationships, but the stakes are much higher for leaders who represent Jesus. Fractured relationships tend to reverberate through the church.
I learned this the hard way right off the bat. In ministry situations I took conflict personally and became defensive. I was inclined to argue with people who disagreed with me. Instead of employing techniques to “lower the temperature,” I would become defensive and do my best to justify my actions. It was an attitude better suited to a lawyer, my dad’s profession, than a pastor.
My difficulties with conflict contributed to a painful decision to leave my second pastoral call. This prompted deeper self-reflection and seeking personal help.
As a leader I knew I was missing opportunities to pastor the people I found myself in disagreement with.
But in conflict how can we be compassionate and humble? How do we learn to bless the person who is insulting us?
Peter writes: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing…” (1 Peter 3:8-11).
Similarly, James teaches, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19, 20).
In processing my experience, Christ led me on a journey into growing self-awareness and a deeper experience of God’s grace and unconditional love.
Through the process, I learned some key strategies for conflict resolution:
- Pay attention to your triggers
If you get defensive or angry in conflict you’re having underlying emotions or shame that need care. I find it helpful to process with someone who is safe. Talking with one of Soul Shepherding’s Sr. Spiritual Directors can help you learn to handle conflict in a calm and collected way.
- Don’t view the other person as a “bad egg”
In conflict it’s easy to assume the other person is trying to hurt you or to get locked into a “me vs. you” battle. Instead, I’ve learned to visualize the problem to the side of us. The problem is not the other person, but the conflict or misunderstanding.
- If needed push pause to re-engage in a healthy way
Taking time to process your negative thoughts and feelings can help you later come back to the table in a healthy way, increasing your chances of being loving and resolving the conflict.
I’ve discovered that conflict can actually bring two people together. When I hear people’s complaints and respond with gentleness rather than taking things personally, it builds them up in Christ.
At The Pastor’s Workshop Presbyterian pastor Stu Strachan helps you prepare messages with inspiring stories, beautiful prayers, and heart-pounding quotes that bring the gospel to life for your audience. Contact Stu Strachan.
Listen to this week’s Soul Talks podcast: “Emotional & Spiritual Growth for Church Leaders ” How can church leaders and pastors care for others while also caring for themselves? Join Bill & Kristi this week as they’re interviewed by Rich Birch, host of the unSeminary podcast. Often church leaders are busy caring for their congregations, but may neglect the refreshment of their own souls. When this happens for extended seasons, the result can be burnout, disappointment, and confusion. Unpacking the CHRIST stages and wisdom from their book, Journey of the Soul, Bill & Kristi encourage you to experience more of God’s invitational grace in the midst of whatever challenge or season you find yourself in.