Church Conflict - Part Two: How to Handle It
“A sure sign you’re using weapons of the flesh instead of weapons of the Spirit is that you’re getting short-term gains, but long-term losses.” Rene Schlaepfer, Pastor, Twin Lakes Church, Aptos, California.
One of the most vicious battlefields/conflicts a Christian will possibly encounter is on the floor of the church business meeting! No where is there a greater charge of emotional energy – usually focused on things of the flesh rather than things of the Spirit and the Kingdom of God. When the personal emotional energy is to win at all cost – the body, the church takes on conflict. Sometimes it is short term. Sometimes it is very involved and takes days/weeks to resolve. Many conflicts could be resolved instantly with good parliamentary procedures or policies and procedures in place to process the negotiation procedures. When these are missing, conflicts can certainly form.
Seriously, the church business meeting is NOT the place nor the time to resolve conflict, great or small. If the bylaws support the procedure all “new business” should always be directed to the proper committee/team/group who has been empowered by the congregation to administrate that task. A report of the concern/question/idea from the empowered committee/team/group would be due in the “old business” carried over to the next scheduled business meeting. Any special business meeting to settle a conflict situation would require proper notice and time and would require a recommendation of action from the committee/team/group.
Another method to handle conflict is to create an ad hoc committee to face the conflict in a closed session – thus taking it off the church business meeting agenda and focusing on a special time and place. A “mediator” (a neutral party non-church member) could be present to direct the discussion, draw the conclusions made in the meeting and help write a written resolve of the conflict. This method is working very well. It allows proper discussion and “venting” over a 3-4 hour session that thoroughly reviews the timeline of the conflict and draws consensus toward resolve. Once the resolution has been written and agreed upon by the ad hoc committee a formal report concerning the resolution needs to be reported to the congregation in a called special business meeting. Church records should contain the report from the committee and that the conflict is officially settled.
While it is true that too many “church fights” have resulted from ill-conducted business meetings, the fundamental principle of parliamentary law still holds true:
“The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.” (Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th Edition, Cambridge, MA; Persens Publishing, 2000; pvlviii.)