11 Questions to Ask when Dealing with Conflict

Every church leader will deal with conflict at some point. How we address that conflict, particularly if it’s serious, will sometimes determine whether we survive it – and if we survive it, whether we bear scars for the rest of our ministry. Sometimes we give too little attention to these issues. On the other hand, sometimes we actually escalate the conflict because we give it too much time and energy. 

As you deal with conflict, here are some questions to ask in determining how much energy you should devote to the issue, listed in no particular order:

  1. Will this issue matter one year from now? I give credit here to my president at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, Danny Akin. If you know the issue won’t even be on the radar screen one year from now, no need to get too stressed today.
  2. How many people are truly opposed? Thom Rainer directed me to this question years ago.  Sometimes the opposition seems like many people, but it’s really only a few LOUD people. 
  3. Is this issue essential to the gospel?  If the gospel is at stake, it’s time to deal with the issue head-on. If not, you’ll have to determine if the issue is central to your church’s DNA, vision, etc. – but the urgency is not as great if the gospel is not at stake.
  4. What does the Bible say? The Scriptures may not directly address every issue you face, but the Bible does give us what we need to deal with conflict. Spend time in the Word when you face conflict. 
  5. Am I so emotionally involved that I can’t see the issues clearly? To be honest, I’ve heard few leaders say “yes” to this question even when they were, in fact, emotionally invested. That’s the problem with our blindness – we don’t recognize it until it’s too late. 
  6. What do I really want here? If the issue is resolved in the way you really want it resolved, will that resolution be honoring to God? Sometimes our fallenness leads us to want vengeance and vindication more than God’s glory. 
  7. Do I need to involve others in my decision-making process? Of course, you may not be in a position to talk to somebody about every situation. Generally, though, having more than one wise, godly voice in the conversation can be helpful.
  8. Can I put this fire out with a squirt gun (or even a bucket)? If a few simple steps can take care of the problem, do it. Put the fire out while it’s small. If the fire is already raging, make sure you have a team of “firefighters” helping you deal with the flames. Don’t fight fires alone unless you’re the only one standing for the gospel.
  9. How much change do I have in my pocket?  I first heard John Maxwell use this phrase. If you have enough change in your pocket – that is, enough credibility and support – that you can risk losing some, you can take greater steps in addressing the issues.
  10. What’s the worst thing that can happen here, and can I live with that possibility? It’s possible the conflict won’t be resolved without someone losing something, including a job. If that’s the worst thing that can happen in this situation, is the issue so great that you’re willing to take the risk?
  11. Have I prayed about my response?  That is, have I sought Go before determining the response? Talking to God first can save heartache in the long run.    

What questions would you add?

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