8 Things I Wish I’d Known as a Young Pastor about Dealing with Conflict

As I write this post, I’m in a time of reflection. I’ve been thinking about how I deal with difficult situations as a 59-year old pastor compared to how I dealt with things as a 20-year old rookie preacher. I’m not suggesting that my story is everybody’s story, but here are some things I’ve learned that help me today:

  1. Things are seldom as bad as they seem. They might be—so I don’t want to ignore those pastors who’ve faced genuinely tough ministry situations—but I’ve learned that I sometimes imagine a situation to be worse in my mind than it really is.
  2. If the Lord continues to give us life, the sun will come up tomorrow. That is to say, God is still in charge, and He is a giver of hope. A new day is a reminder that things can get better.
  3. A good night’s sleep can do wonders. I realize, of course, that conflict sometimes robs us of sleep. I’ve learned, though, that I then need to ask God to grant me sweet rest in the midst of anguish—and He gives grace.
  4. For every troublemaker in the church, there are godly people. The troublemakers can be loud and boastful, so we often get distracted from seeing the goodness of God’s people. Knowing there are godly people who stand beside you will help you deal with the conflict.
  5. It’s not very wise to fight through conflict alone. This point relates directly to the previous one on this list. God gives us brothers and sisters to walk with us—and it’s unwise (dumb, even) to try to fight by ourselves.
  6. Poor discipleship contributes to conflict. People who remain baby believers seldom know how to deal with disagreement in a spiritually mature way. They’re responsible for their actions, but non-discipling churches don’t help them much.
  7. We often exacerbate conflict by responding too quickly. It’s hard to change directions once that quickly-written email is sent. A word spoken in haste has often done its damage before we’ve thought about what we said. I’m still learning to wait before responding whenever that’s possible.
  8. God’s in charge, and He uses conflict to grow us. We may not like it when the conflict is present tense, but here’s what I’ve learned over many years: I’m a better follower of Christ because of what I’ve learned in the most difficult days of my ministry. Particularly, God has more often than not driven me necessarily to my knees—which is always a good place to be.

What have you learned through ministry conflict?  


  • Thank you for another relevant post, Chuck! I’m probably not the only pastor who could have used a semester of “conflict management” in seminary had it been offered.

    I was taken aback when, as a new pastor, a whole family became angry and passive-aggressive because I suggested to their daughter she schedule the children to sing at a different time than she had planned. I called Bob Sorrell, Adrian Rogers’ assistant, and asked for his advice. He spoke like a father to me and said, “Mark, remember that God knew those people would be there and how they would behave before he called you there. Stay on the high road and trust the Lord.”

    This simple reminder helped me to regain my perspective. I was not at the mercy of angry church members. I was God’s servant and therefore, under His care.

    Since then, the Lord has brought us through many painful situations and continues to challenge me to trust Him more, learn from my mistakes, and forgive others. A book that helped me is, “When People Are Big and God Is Small,” by Edward T. Welch (E-Book, New Growth Press: Greensboro, NC), 2011.

    God bless you!

  • Charles Kile says:

    August 30th Sunday morning I am going to drive 3 hours to meet with an aggressive 60 plus male who over a 4th of July weekend retreat fell deeply in love with one of my leaders in 15 minutes. She is now frightened of this man and does not want to chair her 2 monthly dinners or a one monthly game night because he may show up. In his mind he knows she really loves him and he has done all the right things. Before the retreat is sent a picture of himself from the waist up without a shirt and at the retreat followed her round.
    ** First my leader should have told me about the picture, I use meetup.com as my platform. I would have sent the picture to meetup and he would have been removed from the platform.
    ** I have 3 rules but the leadership of the retreat did not post them. One being a no asking out for dates at the event… If they had done this, this guy would never have came.
    ** I had a male retreat leader call him to get him to stop calling her.
    ** I will meet with him and follow Matthew 18:15.
    The life of a Singles Community Ministry Leader is never dull.

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