How Do You Prepare Leaders for Major Disruption?

A message I received: “Jerrie, how do you…1. Convince church leaders to study, consider the process in advance (prior to a storm)? 2. Develop preachers for the specific task? As those who create chaos do not belong in the calming, morale restoration business, no matter how new or how experienced.”

1. How do you convince church leaders to study, consider the process in advance (before a storm)?

  • Bible study. It’s not a matter of if we’ll have conflict. It’s when and how. We aren’t spiritual enough to avoid disagreements. The apostles disputed repeatedly when Jesus was alive. The Jerusalem church had conflict. The congregation in Corinth was the poster child of division. Churches of Asia had problems. Jesus selected the apostles, taught the apostles, and trained the apostles. If those He taught fussed about who’s going to be the greatest, we shouldn’t be surprised when people have similar issues today.
  • Recovering participants. My observations: more people consider quitting smoking after a cancer diagnosis; many exercise programs begin in rehab after a heart attack. Many leaders who have no interest in learning about conflict resolution become interested after a church split. In more than one interim church I’ve been told, “Before this, I thought we had the perfect church.”That’s part of the problem. Thinking we’ll never have a storm keeps us from preparing for the inevitable storm.
  • Common sense (wisdom). It’s better to build a storm shelter on a sunny day than starting when an F5 tornado is 100 yards away and coming your way. Building an emergency fund is more effective when you consistently set aside money for a rainy day than waiting to open an account with $10.00 you found on the street on the way to bankruptcy court.

2. How do you develop preachers for the specific task?

  • Bible study. Teaching preachers about the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch and Deutero-Isaiah without some instruction in how to avoid getting in the middle of others peoples’ conflict is like teaching a doctor every organ and cell in the body and putting him or her in the emergency room on Saturday night as the only doctor on call before they’ve served an internship. Everybody gets hurt when there’s book learning without application and practice.
  • Examination, healing, and practice. We operate out of our experience and training (or lack of training). Few of us were raised in a home where dealing with conflict was perfect. Seeing different ways of dealing with frustration and being aware of how I can improve will be helpful. Shouting and pouting are two common, but ineffective, ways of reacting to disappointment.I’ve found it helpful to be in supervised groups where we practice skills of observing, discussing, and participating in challenging issues. I can observe in others what does and doesn’t work. When I feel brave enough, I can dip my feet in the water. A good leader will help everyone learn and win. Personal counseling has contributed to my comfort in working with complicated events. Often I’ve delayed my comments until conferring with someone with more wisdom and experience.

For Both Groups: Admit You Don’t Know Everything — Ask for Help

When Paul and Barnabas weren’t able to settle the dispute about circumcision and keeping the law of Moses, they went to get help from others (Acts 15:1, 2). Jesus taught His followers if you can’t settle a problem by yourself, ask one or two more for help. If that doesn’t work, ask for more help from a bigger group (Matthew 18:15-17).

A teacher told us at Freed-Hardeman, “Someday you’ll meet a difficult question you can’t answer. Don’t assume because you don’t know the answer, there’s no answer. People have faced about every issue. Keep looking until you find someone who can help.”

What suggestions do you have for learning to deal with conflict?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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