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How to Resolve Conflict

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

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The Korean word "Gal-Deung" which is in English "conflict" is a combination of Chinese character of "chicory vine" (葛) and "climbing plant" (藤). Both are vines that wrap around trees, but chicory vine wraps around trees to the right, while climbing plants wrap around trees to the left. When both vines climb the same tree, they twist around each other and can become tangled to the point where it is impossible to untangle them. Hence, the term "Gal-Deung (conflict)" is used to describe this entanglement.

Conflicts do not arise because one person is wrong, rather because two different people are in a relationship in the same place. In fact, relationships between two different people can cause discomfort and often lead to conflict. Dr. David Olson, a world-renowned authority on marriage and family therapy, said, "The idea that there should be no conflict in a marriage is one of the lies that obstructs the ability of couples to be happy together."

The same applies to church life. Even in a loving community of people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are being sanctified, conflicts can arise because of differences among people. Therefore, the presence of conflict is neither strange nor abnormal, but can happen naturally in relationships. What is important is how to handle conflict in a healthy way, which is a sign of a healthy relationship.

So in order to deal with church conflicts, we need to understand what the cause of conflicts is and how to deal with those conflicts

1) Nine causes of conflicts in the church and countermeasures.

Roy W. Pneuman identified nine factors that contribute to church conflict: (1) individuals having different values and beliefs about the church; (2) a lack of systematic administrative structure; (3) confusion over the role and responsibility of pastors; (4) the church's administrative structure failing to keep up with changing congregational size; (5) different leadership styles between pastors and lay leaders; (6) a new pastor attempting to bring about rapid change; (7) inadequate communication among members; (8) immature response in the early stages of the conflict, (9) those with complaints engage in an aggressive power game as a last resort, incite conflicts, and try to establish their own authority. (Refer to the details in the attachment)

In addition to these, there may be internal factors that contribute to conflicts, such as when a person with a strong desire for recognition is unable to fulfill that desire and attends meeting with dissatisfaction, or when someone who cannot tolerate in uncomfortable situations where things do not go in their way tries to control everything according to their own will, or when individuals who do not understand their own emotions and cannot distinguish between emotional reactions and rational thoughts, join in the meeting, or those who try to solve every problem based on their own sense of right and wrong are involved in the conflict. In such cases, it seems that conflicts may remain unresolved as conversations continue to hit a wall.

Therefore, when conflicts arise, there should be leaders who can accurately diagnose the cause of church conflicts and resolve them peacefully, as different responses are required depending on each factor, as seen above. That is, lack of understanding should be resolved through empathetic communication, and issues that are still developing should be addressed with patience and encouragement, while in the case of the presence of someone who pursue power game, the church needs to work together to control such negative people. Additionally, when individuals have personal emotional anxiety, healing should take priority.

2) Practical methods to handle conflicts

  • Mutual understanding and compromise through dialogue

It is important to have a dialogue that understands, empathizes, and accepts each other's differences and situations. A respectful and serious yet positive attitude towards the conflicting parties is crucial. (We also recommend attending empathy conversation seminars.)

  • Setting a time-out point

Even if the conversation is well conducted, problems can be amplified rather than solved by prolonged conversations, so setting a time-out point is an effective way to prevent this from happening.

  • Seeking help from a mediator or a neutral third party

Getting help from a professional or an organization that can help reconcile the demands of both sides and reach a compromise.

Based on this information, we hope to increase our awareness of the various conflict factors by executing case-study in small groups to discuss various solutions and strategies so that ultimately all churches will become better equipped to overcome conflict situations.

9 causes of Church conflict by Roy Pneuman
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