Monday, September 16, 2013

Seven Habits of Effective Conflict-Managing Congregations

Williamsburg Retreat Center
I was blessed with the opportunity to lead a congregational retreat with members of Richmond's First Mennonite Church this past weekend on the theme of "Unity and Spirituality." Together we reflected on  some of the following good "habits" of congregations that are able to embrace conflict as normal and as actually offering potential for growth:

1. They Celebrate a Healthy Sense of Personal and Congregational Empowerment (I Corinthians 1:1-9, 18-31, 2:1-16)
Each member is encouraged to grow in personal power and gifting. 
How do we effectively experience and use "power" in our church?

2. They Recognize Differences as Normal, but Rule Out Divisiveness as Unacceptable (I Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:1-20)
Unity in diversity is seen as both possible and desirable.   
What makes church families such fertile settings for divisions and conflicts?

3. They Celebrate a Sense of Spiritual and Emotional Abundance Rather Than Scarcity (I Corinthians 3:21-4:1-21)
Members receive plenty of recognition, validation and respect (feel valued), and feel able to influence outcomes (feel they have a say). Thus there is less need for getting back or for retaliating in anger and frustration--or for withdrawing, giving up or retreating in hurt and helplessness.
What happens when people feel their basic needs for love and influence aren’t being met?

4. They Are Capable of Repairing Relationships With Troubled Members (I Corinthians 5-6)

Problems are seen as normal and as opportunities for the congregation to responsibly and redemptively engage each other when they occur.
How can we learn to more effectively address our problems rather than either attacking (or simply avoiding) each other?

5. They Balance Concerns for Individual Freedom With Support for the Community’s Basic Values and Beliefs (I Corinthians 7-12)

Those with a more robust conscience on disputable matters show respect and regard for those with more sensitive consciences.
What are some of the debatable matters facing our congregation?
6. They Demonstrate A High Level of Respect, Patience and Care for Each Other Other (I Corinthians 13)

Believers demonstrate a commitment to carrying out God’s will, but always in God’s way, in the spirit of Christ-like, agape love. They keep their respect for others high, their expectations moderate, and their anxiety low.
How can we foster growth toward this level of maturity?

7. They Practice Orderliness and Respectful Listening in Their Church Gatherings (I Corinthians 14?)

They don’t come to church meetings with closed minds, but with the commitment to carefully listen and learn from others, encouraging the free expression of everyone’s gifts and insights. After listening well, they discuss and discern the Spirit’s leading in reaching needed consensus, persevering at this for as long as it takes.
Is following “Robert’s Rules of Order” always the best way to do church business?

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Check this link for more posts on church unity, including the September 12, 2012, piece on 1) why "conservatives" and "liberals" need each other, 2) how congregations can benefit by hearing from both, and 3) how each of us is decidedly "liberal" on some issues and definitely "conservative" on others.
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