Church staff conflict? Sounds like an oxymoron right?
We often think that working for a church eliminates the conflict factor – well because we’re Christians, right? Wrong!
People are people, and whether they work for the insurance company down the street, the local hospital or church – conflict is inevitable.
Why? Well we are all different and we all come from different backgrounds which contributes to how we respond to the work environment.
Churches in particular are susceptible to conflict because they are often left to do countless responsibilities with limited resources.
Think about it – how many businesses use predominately volunteer labor to provide a service?
This pressure to get more done with less (paid employees) can result in staff disputes.
When communication and interactions become toxic, it can be a symptom of an unresolved issue.
There is a theory in conflict resolution that the longer a conflict festers the less likely it will be resolved.
The further the conflict goes down the time continuum, the less likely it will be to be resolved and go back to the way things were. And this tension does not foster a healthy work environment.
Sometimes a manager gets pulled into a situation where the conflict among staff members has gotten so pernicious that it interferes with how work gets done.
This is particularly troubling when the church is in the midst of planning or facilitating a big event.
5 Tips For Resolving Conflict Between Church Staff
1. Study the Word
As Christians we know that the best way to deal with conflict is to see what the bible says about it.
There are lots of scriptures that teach us how to resolve conflict.
Take a few minutes to read what God says about conflict and you will be well prepared.
2. Set Expectations
Not everyone has a natural ability for getting along with others.
Sometimes its personality, sometimes its simply ignorance of appropriate behavior.
Help staff understand the importance of the team working toward the common goal.
Set the expectations for maintaining a healthy work place by demonstrating healthy communication.
Hold team members accountable for those behaviors.
3. Confront the Issue
Often conflict carries subtle symptoms that can undermine a team.
- Avoidance – walk the other way when someone is coming down the hall;
- Deliberate neglect of responsibilities – I’ll show them how much I do;
- Talking behind a team member’s back – trying to gain support for their cause;
- Public outbursts of anger or overreacting.
When these symptoms are present, it is time for an intervention.
Call the employees into a room and simply talk about the issue.
While uncomfortable at the start of the conversation, teach them to talk to each other face-to-face about the issues.
Ask both parties to share their perspective. This will help them learn to communicate and share their perspective on the situation.
Typically both employees will learn something from the other person’s perspective and that will often defuse the situation and help with healing from the conflict.
End the session by asking both employees to commit to not discussing the issue with anyone but each other.
4. Drill Down On The Source
Churches operate with limited resources and when there is a war over those resources (people, time or money), staff can become territorial and possessive.
Identify the source of the conflict and help staff brainstorm ways to fill in the gap.
For instance, if a staff person needs more volunteers to facilitate a large event, help to identify people to help.
5. Plan Fun Interactions
Teams bond when they work on projects together but they really bond when they get to play together. After a big project, plan a play day.
Cater in lunch, set up games or simply shoot hoops at the local basketball court.
The goal is for staff to interact socially and help to build those valuable relationships that can carry an employee through a challenging time at work.
No one likes to dealing with conflict. Lead employees toward a healthy work place by taking the time to study the word, set expectations and teach your teams how to work together. You may be surprised at how productive they will be!