Conflict in ministry is hard.
It is hard because it often feels personal. It is hard because it can evoke feelings like anger, self-doubt, fear or shame, feelings that are unpleasant to digest. And it is hard because change of any kind is often accompanied by some conflict.
Yet change is also essential for flourishing in ministry. And it follows that conflict is often one aspect of health and growth.
So how do we do we navigate conflict well?
I know only a small handful of ministry leaders who go looking for conflict in ministry. A minister who seeks out conflict or likes to stir up discord may not last long in their calling. I know more ministers who would prefer to avoid conflict whenever possible.
Even activist ministers who are called to lead protests and to agitate for social change do not necessarily want conflict among or between those they are leading in movements for change.
Given these observations, perhaps we can reframe the normalcy of conflict. Rather than being something we seek out, or try to avoid at all costs, conflict is better understood as a regular and unavoidable byproduct of healthy change, renewal, and growth.
Learning to navigate conflict and give leadership through it, is a persistent and challenging aspect of the practice of ministry. It is the focus of this week’s 3MMM episode.
Some of the most interesting stories we hear in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project are the ones where someone tells about a conflict they faced.
This week’s story comes from Bishop Carlos. In his role as a Pentecostal pastor and bishop, he faces conflict regularly. He told us in an interview several years ago about how his approach to conflict changed over the years.
Spoiler alert: listening is among the keys to navigating conflict!
Our featured resource this week is Leading a Life with God. In the book pastor and teacher, Daniel Wolpert invites readers to think about how to lead in all ministry situations by starting in contemplative silence and deep listening.
The art and practice of leading people of faith is one that starts with listening to God in silence and then beginning each moment of leadership by calling our community into that same silence of holy presence. Wolpert is offering yet another way to see the holy depths of a situation.
Are you in a new or ongoing mentoring relationship? We have a growing catalogue of episodes to inform and inspire your practice of ministry. Please explore the ideas, questions and resources at our awesome new index to 3MMM!
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*Carlos, a pseudonym, is a participant in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. This story is shared with his permission.