Attended any heated meetings lately? And I’m not talking about the HVAC system. Ministry teams can generate conflict that’s often hard to defuse. Leaders need to be prepared to cool things off before they get out of hand.
Use these tips to avoid heated conversations at your next team meeting.
- Be proactive instead of reactive. It’s easier to prevent a fire than to put one out! Coach your team on these conflict management tips to pre-empt future heated discussions. Many ministry teams have a covenant that outlines specific behaviors, expectations, and rules of order. If you don’t have a covenant, now may be a good time to develop one.
- Listen. Teach your team members to practice active listening. Everyone needs to listen to both sides of an issue before deciding what actions to take. Establish guidelines on interruptions and make sure no one dominates all the discussion.
- Think before you speak. James 1:19 says everyone should, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” My mom used to tell me to count to 10 before reacting. Not bad advice. Often, conflict accelerates because we blurt out something without giving it rational thought. Advise team members to reflect on their thoughts before they become part of your meeting minutes.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. If your cat comes home with feathers sticking from his mouth, you can probably conclude he just caught a bird. Let’s give our team members more credit. Don’t assume that someone is pushing a hidden agenda unless you know the facts. Hold decisions until you have enough information to draw the right conclusion.
- Look for common ground. Remember that you and your team are in ministry for a common mission and purpose. Pull together what everyone agrees on, and work from that point to resolve the specific differences. A wise leader once said, “Compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.”
- Use “I” statements. Always frame feedback with a statement that communicates how you are affected, or interpret the situation. Instead of saying, “You need to change that policy,” use an indirect message such as “I feel this policy might make people feel unappreciated. I’d like to share some thoughts that I’ve found helpful.”
- Admit your mistakes. If you’re wrong, admit it. Servant leaders demonstrate genuine humility—and ask for forgiveness.
- Pray continuously. Most church teams only give the obligatory opening, and sometimes closing, prayer. When things get tense, stop the meeting and pray at that moment. Prayer helps us focus on the One who equips us to serve.
Use these suggestions with the teams you lead. Teach them to those in leadership positions. Modeling effective conflict resolution techniques will have a greater impact on your team than just telling them what they need to know.