In this week’s edition: how congregational leaders can respond to conflict in the age of COVID-19. Professor Leanna Fuller of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary offers four suggestions and a warning for leaders. We also look back into the Alban archive to hear Jeffrey Jones’ important reminder that our congregations need some level of stress and conflict to be vital in the future. And, if your congregation is coming out of a time of conflict, what then? Patricia Carol helps us imagine how we can heal

Welcome to the Weekly. 

What’s a church to do? Dealing with a conflict during the pandemic

“We know that communication is key in resolving church conflict. But at present, resolving disagreement may take more time and intentionality than we are used to giving.” – Leanna K. Fuller

Many of our go-to tools for managing conflict within our congregations have to be reimagined as we have fewer opportunities to be with other people face-to-face. Here are suggestions for ways to respond to conflict now.

The need for stress and conflict

“Avoiding conflict is one way to ensure the slow death of [an] organization, because if disagreements are not faced, there is no possibility of the kind of change that will enable the organization to renew itself.” So how does a leader use conflict to enable an organization to pivot to what’s next? Jeffrey Jones offers ideas.

Resources to respond to the coronavirus

Ask Alban: How can my congregation heal after a significant conflict?

Even when a congregation has experienced a life-giving conflict that has helped clarify mission and purpose, there is healing work to be done on the other side. Here are seven activities that may help the community move on.

From the Alban Library

How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

By Susan Beaumont

How do you lead an organization stuck between an ending and a new beginning –when the old way of doing things no longer works but a way forward is not yet clear? Beaumont calls such in-between times liminal seasons – threshold times when the continuity of tradition disintegrates and uncertainty about the future fuels doubt and chaos. In a liminal season it simply is not helpful to pretend we understand what needs to happen next. But leaders can still lead.

How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going is a practical book of hope for tired and weary leaders who risk defining this era of ministry in terms of failure or loss. It helps leaders stand firm in a disoriented state, learning from their mistakes and leading despite the confusion. Packed with rich stories and real-world examples, Beaumont guides the reader through practices that connect the soul of the leader with the soul of the institution.

Before you go…

Leading in seasons of conflict is never easy, but against the backdrop of a global pandemic, it is even more difficult. I am grateful for wise teachers like those featured in this edition of the Weekly to help guide us as we guide others in our congregations. Of course, if you are learning something about leading in conflict that you’d like to share with the Alban network, let us know by email or on social media.

Until next week, peace!

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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