by myvanewchurch on February 1, 2010


People frequently hold the misunderstanding that conflicts are only negative in nature and outcome.  This is not necessarily true.  Paym Bergsom, in a blog at, said, “Conflict often is the means to effect change: something isn’t working, and you need to fix it. But there are times that conflict is NOT good – such as when people can not or will not work together.”  When conflicts arise, there needs to be a means in place to determine if the conflict is the result of inappropriate self-focus, or if it is an indication that change may be needed to minister to all involved.  There are times when destructive conflict can be averted by being proactive in addressing issues as soon as they become evident, or by eliminating the reason for them altogether.

There may be occasions when individuals or groups may be upset because they feel ignored or devalued.  Whether accurate or not, establishing an atmosphere of respect within the congregation might help to avoid this feeling.  People who are overlooked or dismissed feel disrespected.  It can be the beginning of a real problem.  Groups that may have this experience might include:

  • Age groups – Groups of any age:
    • Senior adults – Feelings of being unappreciated or ignored because they are “useless” can lead to being disgruntled.  Including representatives of this group might add the wisdom of experience to the decision-making process.
    • Median adults — Frequently overlooked because there is an emphasis on youth ministry and senior adult ministry, this group feels taken for granted.  Their inclusion keeps them involved and empowered.
    • Young adults – College students lend hope for the future, while young singles and young marrieds generally can add energy to a church’s life.
    • Adolescents – Need involvement to feel respected.  While their decisions aren’t always well thought out, they may open the door for new ideas and keep a process form getting stale.
  • Gender – Church is one of the most gender biased organizations in society.  Because of theological perspectives, women’s roles may be significantly limited.  Specific recognition and appreciation for the investment in the church’s ministries can help level the field for those who assume a servant’s role, regardless of gender.
  • Individuals or groups of a certain opinions – Though there are going to be minority opinions on methodology, these are valuable to give the majority cause to examine their reasoning and belief system.  Differing opinions may be the route to healthier ways of accomplishing a task.
  • Special needs – While not all churches have the recourses to meet those who have special needs, all can benefit from the attention and opportunity to contribute even in little ways.

By addressing the needs of people who have become part of the church looking for ministry that provides them fellowship, encouragement and acceptance of others, many conflicts may be avoided altogether.  Planning ministry to, and with, the variety of ages, genders and interests may very well avoid the very problems that become so conflictual and detrimental to the church.

A proactive ministry can enable those who might otherwise be ignored, therefore fulfilling God’s mandate to love one another.  With the sensitivity and love that Jesus exhibited and implants within the believer, programs and activities geared to meet the variety of necessities in the broad spectrum of church membership.

In the article that follows, broad suggestions to be inclusive in ways that can unite a church will be outlined.

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