By Gerrard Fess So, you're thinking of quitting youth ministry? You aren't alone. I've been there too. Most people enter into ministry with the assumption that everyone will get along. Those idealistic assumptions last a month or less. Soon enough, all leaders will run into serious conflict. Experience has taught me that most youth workers don't know how to deal with conflict when it happens. They conflict with their Senior pastor, elder board, parents, sponsors, or students and the only resolution that makes sense to them is leaving their post.
It is how we view conflict and get it resolved that make us stronger leaders. (Besides using the Matthew 18 principle ) Here are some battle tested strategies for dealing with conflict:
1. Pray. Pray for wisdom, discernment and direction. Pray for the person or people you are struggling with. Seek God first.
2. Rant. Journal privately. Talk to God and/or someone about the issue to just get it off your chest. It's probably best to not involve someone in your ministry context. Find someone who will listen who is removed from the situation.
3. Seek wisdom. Get some insight from godly people you trust. This maybe your mentor, accountability partner, peers, online community.
4. Outline the problem in writing. Go over the pros and cons of the conflict, and a history that lead to it. Documentation helps but sometimes this step reveals our role in the conflict better.Maybe it's not all their problem, maybe I'm making it worse?
5. Make a plan. Resolution isn't easy. Create a plan to address the issues.
6. Address the issue directly. Once you follow through on your plan of action (Usually this involves sitting down with the parties involved in the conflict and maybe having a mediator). Address your outline, revise, get both sides of the issue. Address the conflict, don't attack the person, but the keep the conversation focused on specific issues. If if the person is a jerk, generally telling them that doesn't make matters better.
7. Make a common resolution plan. Come up with a plan together for actions to help the healing process. If the other person is unwilling still do this for your own conscience.
8. Forgiveness. Forgive the person and perhaps yourself for any wrong doing in this.Holding a grudge about the situation when it's been resolved will only weaken your ministry. If you were wrong, admit your mistakes. It will make you a stronger leader.
9. Evaluate yourself and your actions. Was there anything I can learn from this? Am I at fault? What would help me do better in the future? Seek counselling if necessary. Take a break., sabbath, time to heal may help.
10. Be the peacemaker. Learn to moderate, be a mediator, extend grace and be a life long learner in this messy world of conflict resolution. Taking the first step will communicate powerfully to your entire ministry.
Youth Ministry isn't easy. In fact it's hard enough without all the problems. But, conflicts will come. It is how you handle conflict that either makes or breaks your ministry and helps your leadership skills. Hang in there. I am looking forward to hearing how you handled your most recent conflict.
– Describe a whopper of a conflict that you got involved in and how you resolved it.
– Are there in additional tips that you would add to this list?
Additional resources for conflict resolution:
Healing Life's Hurts through Theophostic Prayer, Edward M. Smith
Healthy Churches, Peter Steinke
Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, Jim Van Yperin.
Managing Church Conflict, Hugh Halverstadt
The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving personal Conflict, Ken Sande.
Pastors in Pain, Gary Presto
The Wounded Minister, Guy Greenfield