Dealing with Conflict in Ministry

By Tricia Lovejoy

Conflict in ministry. It happens. Someone will betray you. A volunteer will let you down. A ministry team member will disappoint you. Misunderstandings will occur. Often.

Conflict happens. Drama, however, is a choice.

Betrayal doesn’t have to lead to years of church turmoil – public or private. Frustrations don’t have to escalate to Level 5. Disappointments don’t have to result in terminated relationships. Misunderstandings can be righted. In short, conflict can lead to peace, not drama.

Sounds good…even holy, but how is it possible? How do we respond when we face opposition or criticism? Well, running and hiding isn’t a good option since we will most likely see our offenders next Sunday. And, God says gossiping about the situation (even in the form of a prayer request – yes, I just went there) is not acceptable, either.

So, let me give you a quick summary on dealing with conflict in ministry leadership:
  • Focus on God – remember who God has called us to be and the character He expects us to display.
  • Go First – have a private conversation with the person and accept responsibility for our part of the conflict.
  • Speak The Truth in Love – honestly, but cautiously share our feelings. Consider how our words will be perceived and choose them wisely. Our goal should always be to win the relationship….not the argument. Wagging our neck or our finger doesn’t win our opponent over; it only serves to further divide.
  • Be Gentle – soften our approach and our words when we engage those with whom we have conflict. How? Listen more than we speak, choose the right time to talk, and guard our tone. What we say matters; how we say it matters more.
  • Forgive – Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone the wrong or that we’ll forget the pain. It does mean that we show the same mercy to others that God chooses to show to us. Not easy to do, I’ll admit. Nevertheless, this is a muscle we MUST stretch.

The next time your temperature rises because someone has overstepped their bounds, remember the way God instructs us to respond. If we do, the only drama we’ll see will be on TV….not in our churches.

Published December 8, 2014

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Tricia Lovejoy

Tricia lives in Birmingham, Ala., and is married to Shawn Lovejoy, an author and the founder of CourageToLead, a coaching resource for pastors. She blogs at with insights into our Christian life, a little fun, and a lot of real-life transparency. Together, she and her husband lead out in ministry and life. They have three children.