Tis the season for pastoral appointments
The barbeque restaurant had a great following and was nearly out of seats as we got our food. We sat at a large, long table and knew others would be sitting with us.
He sat down across from us and was in his Navy uniform. We chatted a bit about the food and the fine ice they had for the tea. “What do you do?”
“I’m a Lieutenant Commander from the base.”
“Great. Do you live close by?”
“No, about 25 miles from here in Goodson. How about you two gentlemen?”
“We are both pastors and work in Proactive Ministries, which is a ministry that provides teaching, training and leadership development with churches.”
“Bet that’s interesting. I go to the United Methodist Church in our town. Been in that church about five years now. Great people there.”
“Oh yes, I know where the church is. How are things in your congregation?”
“Not very well. We have a pastor who is unfriendly, can’t preach and lots of families have left the church. We hoped he would be moving but doesn’t look like it.”
“My wife is on the Staff Parish Committee and she’s thinking another year for him. Does your group work with churches that are in conflict and hurting?”
“Yes we do. It’s one of the most needed ministries of some congregations today. It also provides many opportunities for healing and hope to occur.”
The conversation is one that we hear too often in our travels across the nation. Some churches will be receiving a new pastor in June and other pastors will be returning.
Some of the churches are healthy and growing while others are in major conflict. It is not God’s intention that congregations be divided and racked with dissension. Conflict can shut down authentic outreach ministry.
How can we move beyond conflict in our congregation to spiritual growth, relational healing and reaching new persons for Christ and the church? What are possible key strategy steps?
1) If communication is poor, with persons leaving due to conflicts, it’s time to call in an objective, outside Reconciliation Team who is experienced in Peacemaking ministry and conflict resolution.
2) The Reconciliation Team working with your church will visit personally with persons from all “facets” of the congregation. They will do interviews, phone calls, conference calls and personal visits with individuals, couples and groups of persons who may have stopped attending church. They will connect with the staff, pastor and leaders of the church. They will listen and discern a clear picture of the past and present reality in the church which
3) The Reconciliation Team after building trust with various persons and groups, will then become advocates for active reconciliation experiences where division is in place.
4) The Reconciliation Team will likely lead a reconciliation and healing weekend in your church for the pastor, staff and laity leadership, providing training on how to become agents of reconciliation and forgiveness.
5) This will lead to opportunities for giving everyone an opportunity to work through the current reality and providing safe settings where healing discussions can occur under Christian mediation. Worship and prayer will be part of these experiences. New doors of forgiveness will be opened.
6) Working with the leadership of the church, a specific ministry strategic plan will be adopted by the leadership for the congregation to rally around and move forward. The conflict, once worked through must be replaced with a positive, forward-posture plan, which will bring people into discipleship and ministry action going forward. Sometimes there can be a “truce” rather than resolution. A forward-moving action plan is very important to keep the congregation from cycling back into the conflict again. Recurring cycles can be deadly.
As we move through the spring and summer, if you know of a church, leadership team, active members or pastors of a congregation who are dealing with intense, destructive conflict levels, please encourage them to contact me. There can be effective intervention, spiritual reconciliation and the congregation can discover new paths forward in faith and relationships.
Every congregation has far too many persons living in the immediate and surrounding community who can be reached through the unconditional love of Christ and brought into a loving, caring fellowship to allow themselves to continue to spiral down in conflict. Dare to become an agent of hope. Encourage pastors and leaders to pursue new possibilities of ministry even in churches that may feel things are pretty hopeless.
In Christ, all things are possible. We can experience forgiveness, hope and reconciliation which we know would not be possible in our own power.
Rev. Jim W. Hollis is a General Evangelist and the Executive Director of Proactive Ministries – a ministry whose Staff of 21 works extensively to provide training, teaching, coaching and conflict resolution with congregations across North America since 1993. You may contact Jim by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Call: 770-803-9988; Facebook or LinkedIn. www.proactive-ministries.org.