There’s an elephant in the room. Everyone sees it, but no one wants to do anything about it. Maybe no one knows what to do about the elephant or how to handle the elephant or some are hoping that if they ignore the elephant long enough it will just go away. Go ahead and open your eyes. Is the elephant still there? What is the elephant’s name?
How about we call it what it is, “conflict on the team.” How did this elephant show up? Especially at our church and on our team? Look out, here comes the first lob of finger-pointing! It all started when someone had the nerve to want to change rooms, curriculum, schedules, and the recruitment and training of volunteers. Then there is that time someone had the audacity to suggest a change when the children’s department will have promotion Sunday or if we will even have promotion Sunday.
Maddix and Estep state, “Christian Education typically involves more individuals in the church than most other ministries, meaning there is a higher likelihood of personal conflict within the ministry” (p. 145). The goal in dealing with conflict is not to avoid it, but to learn how to manage it. It is probably safe to say that most of us don’t like to deal with conflict. To manage and deal with conflict we have to acknowledge that conflict is inevitable and can be managed, and we can recognize and learn strategies to not avoid it, but to deal with it.
Are you aware of your own conflict style? Maddix and Estep (2017) state, “being aware of our preferred conflict style can help us address conflict” (p. 146). These same authors have introduced five styles of conflict and responses based on experiences and our perceptions of others during conflicting moments:
- Avoiding: This style communicates, “I don’t care enough about the issue to invest time and energy in solving it.”
- Accommodating: This style aims to avoid or deny conflict whenever possible.
- Collaborating: This style aims to achieve the goals of all members involved by safeguarding the organization and maintaining good relationships.
- Compromising: This style aims for each side to win and each side to lose. It communicates that we must all submit our personal desires to serve the common good.
- Competing: This style aims to win at all cost. This style reflects aggressive, domineering, and uncooperative behavior. It distances relationships and increases hostility (p. 147).
No one said dealing with conflict on the team, in the church, or in life was easy. As a leader, your responsibility is to manage the conflict effectively to build up the team, encourage the saints, and accomplish the mission of the church. So, grab the leash of that elephant and lead it outside! Remember, you’ve done your job, you didn’t avoid the elephant, you have successfully managed it and led your team through the conflict. Now go grab some peanuts and a coke…Wait! We can’t have peanuts in the children’s ministry area! Who brought peanuts into this area? I’m sensing some potential conflict!
WORKS CITED: Maddix, Mark A., and James Riley Estep, Jr. Practicing Christian Education. Bake Academic, 2017.
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