So you’re dealing with a conflict and you’re feeling some tension with someone you work with or someone you serve with at church.

Join the club.

But rather than let it linger, address it. The stakes are simply too high.

I’m increasingly convinced many churches simply don’t grow because they suffer from conflict and that many teams never thrive because there’s simply too much tension.

What do you do?

Well, first realize you’re not alone. In the United States, 70% of the people who go to work today will tell you they don’t like their jobs.

So many people I know get frustrated at work. And one of the top frustrations?

The people they work with.

Conflict happens wherever people gather: in families, in churches, at work and in communities at large.

I think Christians often struggle with conflict because:

In the name of grace, we feel we need to sacrifice truth.

When we speak truth, we often don’t know how to speak it with grace.

We worry about hurting other people’s feelings when one of the best things we can do is offer honest feedback.

We’re not sure how to support someone we genuinely disagree with.

None of that needs to be.

I have learned, through trial and error, that these 7 strategies below can help me deal with conflict.

I hope they can help you.

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Here are 7 ways that I hope can help you resolve conflict:

1. Own your part of the conflict

Conflict and even bad chemistry is almost never 100% one person’s fault.

Thinking you’re not part of the problem is often the problem.

One of the best expressions I’ve heard of how to figure out the extent to which you might be part of the problem is to ask a compelling question: What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

Jeff Henderson asked that question in a great series at North Point Church called Climate Change.

Own what you can. What is it like to be on the other side of you? Ask some people.

2. Go direct 

Often issues are mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone.

Your co-worker at the water cooler isn’t the problem, so why talk to him about it?

Jesus was crystal clear on how to handle conflict, but very few Christians follow his practice. In the name of being ‘nice’ (“I can’t tell her that!”), we become ineffective.

Talk to the person you have the problem with. Directly. If you haven’t got the courage to do it, maybe the problem isn’t even big enough to worry about.

3. Believe the best about others

It’s easy to assign bad motives to people. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt.  They might not realize how they are coming across. Believe the best about others; don’t assume the worst.

Believing the best can help you address an issue directly without ruining the relationship. It can turn hurtful into helpful. Here’s an example: “Rachel, you might not realize this, but sometimes your emails can come across as demanding or even demeaning. I’m not sure you’re aware of that, but I just wanted to let you know how they leave me feeling sometimes. I know you probably don’t mean to do that.”

That gives the person an out, and frankly, many times, they probably had no idea they were coming across negatively.

When you believe the best about others, you tend to get the best from others.

4. Explain—don’t blame

How to talk to the person you’re struggling with is where many people struggle.

And those conversations often go sideways because people begin with blame. Don’t blame. Explain. Instead of saying “You always” or “You never” (which might be how you feel like starting), begin by talking about how you experience them.

If you’re dealing with an ‘angry person’ for example, you might frame it this way: “Jake, I just want you to know that when you get upset in a meeting, it makes me feel like the discussion is over and I can’t make a contribution.”

If you’re dealing with gossip, try something like:  “Ryan, on Tuesday when you told me what happened to Greg on the weekend, I felt like that was something Greg should have told me directly.”

Do you hear the difference between explaining and blaming?

Blaming others is a guarantee that the only person who won’t grow is you.

5. Be specific 

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better than making general accusations or commenting on personality traits. “The other day in the meeting” or “In your email on the August numbers yesterday” is much more helpful than “You just always seem so frustrated.”

The more specific you are, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending.

6. Tell them you want things to get better 

What the person you’re confronting needs is hope.

At this point, they probably feel defensive, ashamed and (hopefully) sorry.

Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the good they do.

Tell them you are looking forward to the future and want things to work out.

7. Pray for them

I know this sounds trite, but it’s not.

Don’t pray about them. Pray for them.

It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for.

It can also give you empathy for them, and at least in your minds eye, it places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness. It will take any smirk of superiority out of your attitude, which goes a long way toward solving problems.

Grow Yourself

So how do you cultivate a deeper self-awareness, even in matters like handling conflict and leading your team and yourself?

A big part of the battle is overcoming the things that get in the way. Talk to the leaders you admire, and you realize they’ve had to battle cynicism, fight off or avoid burnout, wrestle down their pride, and stare the emptiness of a life devoted to self in the face. The battle makes them better leaders, better Christ-followers and better people.

I write about all of those things and how I’ve battled through them in my own life in my book, Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences. 

In the book, I show you how to battle to the other side of cynicism and reclaim hope, how to move through burnout and figure out how to stay out of it, how to avoid moral compromise and find fulfillment in success rather than the emptiness so many leaders find.

Join the 12,000+ leaders so far who have picked up a copy of Didn’t See It Coming and are realizing the way it is isn’t the way it has to be. I’m praying this book does for your soul what the journey has done and is doing for mine.

What Do You Think?

Do these seven steps always result in a positive outcome? No. But I believe they will resolve the majority of cases in front of you in a very healthy way. At least they have for me. (This approach, by the way, is also effective at home and in most relationships in life.)

I don’t get all 7 approaches right every time, but when I practice them, I find that conflict almost always resolves better.

What would you add to the list? What’s worked for you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

7 Healthy Ways To Resolve Conflict at Church or Work

27 Comments

  1. julius ouko on February 25, 2021 at 4:48 am

    Very helpful in conflict resolution. I am looking forward to more involvement in the conversation.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 25, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      Glad to help!

  2. Anne on October 28, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    A friend came to me about a conflict she had with another friend. I I was handling it well, after a quick perusal of your action points I can’t figure out which one I missed. But as we were chatting I began to realize that she was playing the blame game. Which continued into her warning me against this woman I sensed she had crossed the line and I called her on it. One of the things that came out of her at that point was something like well I guess you’re a better Christian than I am. So I took some time to tell her some of my faults and struggles. Thinking and trying to express to her that neither one of us is better than the other and all sins are equal in God’s eyes we all have struggles and I wanted to support her without bashing The Other Woman. I definitely have a history of struggling with conflict and not handling it well but I honestly feel like I was doing a really good job. So after she got in the last word she deleted and blocked me. As I go over oh that had transpired I remember her saying something to the effect of when you can’t work it out with one person you need to call in another person. I came to this page carry because I was searching to find the spot in the Bible that talks about how you approached other members of the church when dealing with an issue that you’re unable to work out with that person. I hope I’m making sense. I still have not been able to locate the scripture for which I’m seeking, I hope to study the context and just come to a conclusion as to so I can improve in this area. Thank you for your time.

    • SpringChicken on April 10, 2021 at 3:59 pm

      It might be Matthew 18

  3. James Garrison on October 12, 2020 at 10:02 am

    I am preparing for an upcoming meeting with a church member who has issues with our relationship. I thank you for this well thought out guide. I have learned much and believe the impending meeting will be fruitful and hopeful to restore and reconcile our friendship. There is one element I believe that is missing and perhaps you address this at a later time. The feelings and emotions from both sides will not go away without some attempt at forgiveness. How would you see forgiveness playing out in the process you suggest? Examples would be helpful.

  4. David on June 6, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Dear Author,
    I am a church elder mandated with coordination duties.
    We have a church leaders whatsapp group.
    This several month my colleague has been battling others who send forwards to the group until five have left the group.
    After reading this 7ways to resolve a conflict I am encouraged and have decided I will try it to quell the conflict.
    Thank you.

  5. Karen on January 15, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    I appreciate the main post and all the replies, which are very helpful for conflict resolution!
    I realized my greatest asset in resolving conflict is humility. I attempted to resolve conflict in many ways, including many listed in the posts. For the most part, I was successful. However, one day, a very challenging case presented itself to me. Despite all of my various strategies for resolution, the individual remained angry and unmoved. My strategies included an offer to wash the woman’s feet (She was angry because I wanted to maintain a budget for my wedding. She felt my resolve to stay within the budget was not realistic and disrespected her wisdom as a mother in the church). She resigned as the coordinator of my wedding.

    After several attempts to resolve the conflict, I asked the Lord to humble me His Way prior to our next meeting. God answered my prayer! As soon as I approached her, I felt my spirit bow the knee with my head to the floor and my speech matched my spirit! In a matter of a few words of sorrow, the woman immediately accepted my apology and desire for reconciliation. That was 15 years ago! We continued to fellowship and interact as though no misunderstandings occurred. It was not important for me to explain how she wronged me and left me without a coordinator. It was not important for me to point out her poor spirit about my wedding and budget. What was important was restoration of our fellowship and co-labors for Christ!

    Two months ago, the woman apologized to me and repented for her behavior and poor spirit. There was a lesson in the situation for both of us, humility is a forerunner for genuine forgiveness, which often comes before repentance! I realized that despite my gestures of humility, you can always go lower in the spirit with the help and grace of God!

  6. jasa pelet jarak jauh on January 13, 2020 at 10:10 am

    It’s awesome to pay a quick visit this web page and reading the views of
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  7. Steven Hopper on September 14, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Thank you for posting a pragmatic way to focus on conflict resolution.

    I came close to making a colossal mistake in responding to my pastor, a man with seemingly good motives but who advocates a “top-down-I’m-the-Pastor” approach to decision-making. He very likely won’t change, but my perspective of the situation through God’s guidance and grace can. (… and I need both.)

    Leaving my church for another is not my present option … “The grass is always greener in another yard, but it still needs mowing.”

    The following in the post really spoke to me: “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” OUCH … awesome reflection time. 🙂

  8. sparkocam serial number on March 28, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such fantastic information being shared freely out there.

  9. Charles lewis on February 4, 2019 at 1:12 am

    I am happy to have visited this site. Church conflict have destroyed the faith of young baby Christians. With this information shared with our congregation we are confident that it will make a difference.

  10. Mark Shuey on November 18, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Well organized,positive, and winsome steps for action. Thanks

  11. Clyde Godwin on November 17, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Good stuff. I would include step one of the peacemaker from Ken Sande’s work. Step one is to desire God’s glory to be revealed in the conflict. I have experienced and seen hearts change as we engage in conflict with Soli Deo gloria. Wow!

  12. Jason Lieberg on November 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    So good!
    Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind (brene brown).
    Hard on the issue, soft on the person (Jim collins).
    Rumble in a way that’s redemptive (me – haha!)

  13. Tiger Gordon on November 17, 2018 at 11:03 am

    In addition to #4, I’ve also found that it can be helpful to lead with a question rather than an accusation. “Can you help me understand what made you do or say ____?” “What was it that made you so angry during our conversation?” Questions express our willingness to work through the issue with the person rather than just get revenge or blame them for the issue.

  14. Audra Glass on August 18, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    What happens when you try but are dismissed? Not heard? Just told to have grace for the other person, but unwilling to acknowledge or deal with the real issue after grace is exercised continuously? My church is full of family members and a lot of pride. There’s no community, and a lot of talk (preaching) but no action. Don’t mean to be negative, but can’t really think of enough positives that outweigh them or give enough reason to stick around. Maybe God is saying it’s time to go… Will be in much prayer.

    • Margaret Snow on April 11, 2019 at 11:16 am

      Maybe God has called you to have a missionary heart and be salt and light to this church family, sounds like an opportunity to shine for Jesus where it is much needed! May God be glorified in all we do!!
      Another church, different people but still you will find challenges and imperfections to deal with!

  15. Pastor Janice Evans on August 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Thank you this will help me in our up comimg meeting with a conflict in our church. My prayer is that the parties receive what the Lord had given me to add and take away from this. It has soften my heart as I was reading this and showed me in a short time how to handle conflicts when they arise in my personal life, church, in the market places. Thank you Holy Spirit for directing me to this website. I may not get all right at the same time, But I promise I will apply it to my life daily.

  16. Barbara Allen on August 6, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    I was falsely accused in a Church the Pastor’s wife had listened to “gossip” about me. She didn’t seek my side of the issue instead she judged me.
    She confronted me in the presence of my daughter I told her to leave me alone she stood on accusing me falsely.
    A member of the Church came to tell me that the Pastor’s wife was a “silly woman” I said I didn’t want to listen she continued to tell me that the Pastor’s wife had come into the Church for six consecutive months not speaking to this member I said I didn’t want to listen then another member said to me that they didn’t know sometimes how the Pastor was able to deliver his message with all the problems going on with his wife.
    I left the Church for 1 year the Pastor said to me that it was people like me he needed with him in the Church to support him with prayer etc his wife hurt me very deeply I must be truthful and confess my difficulty praying for this woman I have had to accept that I find her a challenge she never repented the Pastor said to me that I was very welcome in the Church but its not the same God will in his own time heal my wound and I was and at times I still am broken hearted because I was falsely accused. But God will hold to account all those who speak idle words.

  17. Patricia on June 24, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for the article. I’ve experienced this before, and have been thinking through it.

  18. Chitra on May 5, 2018 at 7:58 am

    I agree with each of these. Healthy ways to resolve conflict at church ….

  19. clement Lincoln nyakabawu on December 13, 2017 at 12:40 am

    your platform is so inspirational thank you so much

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  22. David Cajiuat on June 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

    I agree with each of these. The only thing better would have been to add Scripture reference with them.

  23. Marlene Jiannino Daley on June 16, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I absolutely agree. I experienced two very troubling situatuions this past year with individuals having domineering personalities & quick to anger. In both instances I had offended them in some way, which brought about a very ugly reaction. Both Christian women. My initial reaction was to feel hurt & back away but then through conversations with close friends, I began to pray about it. I knew that God would give me the guidance I needed. I prayed for them, I forgave them and then I forgave myself. I was at peace & by being at peace, I made peace with them. It will not be the friendship I thought it was, but that is OK. The fact that I was not filled with hurt & anger was more important. They will have to find their own peace through Christ Jesus.

  24. Jenn Williams on June 16, 2016 at 8:17 am

    These are great! One of the cultural values at our church is believing the best and we talk about it A LOT because it seems to come up everyday. It’s definitely not our natural inclination. I’ve found that when I take the first step to believe the best about someone else and their motives, they usually return the favor and the conversation doesn’t go away, but it gets much easier.

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