One of my most recommended reads for over a decade is Conflict Management in Congregations compiled by David Lott. It is a compilation of short works by several authors and is a simple but insightful read. I recently shared some of its wisdom with a few groups of leaders who overwhelming told me this insight was needed today.
In the first chapter, Author Speed Leas outlines 5 levels of conflict.
Stage 1 – People disagree with one another but continue to focus on resolving the problem.
Stage 2 – People become self-protective and begin using language about trust and communication without identifying anything specifically. They don’t specifically state who is mistrusted, what lacked communication, nor any or the reasons.
Stage 3 – People become interested in winning. The problem is no longer the focus; winning is. Individual’s language begins to distort matters dramatically. They see others as malevolent in their intentions and become expert mind readers of other person’s thoughts.
Stage 4 – Winning is no longer sufficient. Individuals are now trying to get rid of someone and their language becomes much more distorted.
Stage 5 – People become fanatical about their position. Persons feel called to eradicate from the earth those whom they oppose. Firing isn’t good enough. The other person must never work again, and everyone must be warned.
These stages are applicable to all of life and leadership not just congregations. Today, we don't see many people exercising the maturity involved in Stage 1. However, Stages 2 & 3 seem very common. And Stages 4 & 5 are most commonly displayed when people want to retain or regain control over a situation, group, or organization. In the Southeast District, I am unaware of any such congregational situations, but I am sure that as leaders you see it in other arenas.
In the event you face a conflict, I pray that you are able to live and lead from a Stage 1 mindset and that the Lord give you the wisdom needed to deal with others regardless of their Stage or mindset.
Additionally, SED Vital Care is ready to prayerfully assist SED pastors & churches as they navigate such challenges and conflicts. For additional info contact Paul Glenn directly firstname.lastname@example.org or his cell 704.239.0569.