Do you view conflict as something to be avoided? If so, you’re certainly not the only one. Most people see conflict as a problem to be uprooted from our relationships and organizations. But a new Alban book — “Transforming Conflict: The Blessings of Congregational Turmoil” — wants to change that perspective.
Author Terasa Cooley says that while she may be wired to face uncomfortable situations head on, something more than personality is needed to move us from conflict mediation to conflict transformation. First, we must let go of the idea that conflict automatically means we have done something wrong. Congregational leaders can be “fixers,” and when things go wrong, we feel responsible and want to rush in to make the problem go away. Cooley encourages leaders to think of conflict as a signal that we have something we need to learn. She sees conflict as an opportunity for everyone involved to be changed for the better.
If you have ever worked or volunteered in a church, you know that congregations are places of continual conflict. Drawing on the work of John Paul Lederach and others in the Mennonite community, “Transforming Conflict” offers practical strategies that promote individual growth and self-awareness, as well as effective insights to help us address interpersonal conflicts.
As disciples of the Prince of Peace, Christians need to be at the forefront of addressing conflict in healthy, productive ways. Too often, conflict in churches leads to congregational splits and denominational schisms. If Cooley is right, we do not need to think that we can or should eliminate conflict. Consequently, two of her goals in this book are:
- “to help us better understand how our minds and bodies respond to conflict and to learn how to teach our minds and bodies a new way of responding” and
- “to develop congregational practices in which conflict can be treated as an opportunity for growth rather than a crisis of division.”
If you’re looking for a more life-giving way through the conflict that is inevitable in congregational ministry, “Transforming Conflict” is here for you.
Use promo code 4F22ALB when you order “Transforming Conflict” at www.rowman.com. Offer expires 12/31/22.
By Gloria Winston-Harris
By Mark Chaves
By Maria Mallory White
Before you go…
I’m guessing someone has read through this week’s issue, reviewed the curated resources and said to themselves, “But I still don’t like conflict.” That’s going to be true for most of us. Yet after leading congregations for 23 years, I can say that even though I don’t like conflict, I have learned and grown through conflict. One way this is true is how I have learned to depend more on prayer and grace than the power of my persuasion. Instead of seeing turmoil as a time to push harder to get my point across, I view turmoil as a moment to slow down and listen to what people are saying. As you consider the conflict you are facing or will face in the future, books like “Transforming Conflict” can help you and everyone involved be changed for the better.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me and the Alban Weekly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity