If I were a hermit, the only conflict I would ever have would be with, well, no one. If you saw the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, he created a friend out of a volleyball. Tom was all alone and needed a friend. The ball’s name was Wilson. Tom now had someone to talk to on this deserted Island. But even with his trusted friend, Wilson, he had some conflict.
The key word we need to focus on when we lead ministry teams is “team.” Teams automatically assumes that there’s more than one person on the team; a team is not an individual. So we’re not alone. (Hopefully you aren’t doing youth ministry alone, and have a team or are beginning the process of building a team.) This means that along the way there’s the potential for some conflict on the team. Why? We all have different SHAPEs. We also sometimes act and react from the flesh rather than the spirit.
Our differences in spiritual gifts can sometimes cause conflict. I may not walk on eggshells and coddle people, and this might irritate the person with the gift of mercy. Likewise their mercy might irritate me because they’re too soft on people.
My heart, my passion, may be different than someone else on the team, and this passion may drive me, which could rub someone the wrong way. My motivation is often totally centered around my passion. My passion may cause me to question a team member’s lack of commitment, which then leads to conflict.
My abilities are different than your abilities. Conflict may arise when we put a task onto a team member, a task that they don’t have the abilities to handle. Conflict could arise out of jealousy when another team member sees how incredibly talented and gifted I am. (Tongue in cheek.)
Personality can cause conflict. The person who’s dry as sandpaper, with the personality of cardboard, is going to bug the person who’s extremely fun and outgoing. The individual with a strong personality will invariably hurt the feelings of the person who has a very meek personality.
Experiences. We can sometimes put more value or importance on our own experiences and overlook others on the team who’ve had some experiences that could contribute to the team, and so this can cause conflict. We also may miss out on someone who could contribute huge in some way due to his or her experiences in life.
So who we are individually can cause conflict on the team, even when we’re operating the way God created us as an individual, serving out of our SHAPE. So if we assume that conflict will arise, and it will, how do we deal with it?
- Let the Spirit be your guide, not your emotions.
John 14:26 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, the Father will send Him in My name and will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
It is important to note the word Counselor in this verse. The Holy Spirit lives within us and he’s there to guide us. When we let emotions take control we make decisions, act, and react from the old flesh rather than the spirit.
- Handle your anger properly.
Ephesians 4:26 (New International Version)
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
Take care of the problem quickly. Don’t wait and allow the conflict to fester.
I’m currently serving as the chaplain for a high school football team and am greatly blessed by it. Something I learned from one of the coaches is that when there’s a problem with a player you handle the problem immediately. I also noted that this same coach who was quick to take care of a player who was messed up was also the first coach to give a player a big hug when they did something right.
Point is that we don’t need to let our anger stew and boil when there is a problem with a team member. We need to handle it quickly and properly.
- Watch your mouth
Matthew 12:34 (New International Version)
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
As a team leader we need to make sure our heart is where it needs to be with God, which will help us to guard the words we use when dealing with conflict with another person on the team.
James 3:8 (New International Version)
“…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Probably all of us have been hurt by something someone else has said to us. What we say can cause tremendous damage. The mouth can tear someone down quicker than anything else we can do and words have a lasting effect.
- Don’t vent on your family
When we get frustrated, who is often the first to “catch it”? One of the worst things we can do as a youth minister is to vent about someone else on the team or in the church in front of our children. Growing up in a pastor’s home I often knew more than I probably needed to know about people in the church, and my dad was careful to not vent in front of me. If you must vent go to your lead pastor or someone involved in ministry who has been what you are going through. So instead of unloading on a spouse or in front of the kids we should do the next thing.
- Pray and then discuss with the team member you are having conflict with.
Commit to pray for the person with whom you are having conflict. It is hard to stay angry with someone you are praying for.
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.”
I’m not suggesting that every conflict on a ministry team is a “church discipline” offense. But I think this verse teaches us an important principle in dealing with conflict. We should go to the one we’re having a conflict with and have a talk—discuss the conflict. If we’re praying for the situation and allowing the Holy Spirit to control us, then the potential for the outcome to be good is better than stewing over the conflict, unloading on the family, or popping off and saying something stupid with our mouths.
Conflict is inevitable. We as team leaders need to make sure that when conflict arises that we deal with it properly and in a healthy way that will help the team be more effective rather than damage the team.