Peacemaking Can Preserve Staff, Money, and MissionThis article originally appeared in the First Quarter 2003 issue of FOCUS, a publication of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and is reprinted by permission.by Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker MinistriesConflict is a thief. Each year it robs ministries of valuable staff and thousands of dollars in wasted time, turnover, and legal expenses. Worse yet, conflict can erode an organization’s Christian witness, both internally and externally, and undermine its mission.
The good news is that many organizations are learning how to prevent these losses and actually use conflict to promote personal and ministry growth. You can do the same for your ministry through these four steps.
1. See Conflict as an Opportunity
In the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he points out that Christians should view conflict in a way that is radically different from the world. Instead of seeing conflict as a waste of time or fearing it, believers should see it as an opportunity to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ (see 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). As one ministry leader discovered, this perspective can produce remarkable results:
When we discovered that one of our youth workers was involved in immoral behavior, our first thought was simply to fire her. But we remembered the “three opportunities” and decided to make a serious effort to minister to her. Instead of becoming angry and threatening us with a retaliatory lawsuit, she resigned voluntarily. Best of all, she committed herself to a counseling program we recommended. In a recent letter she wrote, “I am so glad that my problem was exposed while I was working for you. God has used you to turn my life around.”
2. Adopt The Peacemaker’s Pledge
ECFA members understand the benefit of adopting solid biblical guidelines for handling their finances: their assets are used properly, their integrity is enhanced in the eyes of supporters, and their mission is advanced more effectively. Similar benefits can be achieved by adopting biblical guidelines for resolving conflict.
One way to do this is to adopt The Peacemaker’s Pledge, which sets forth a biblical framework for responding to conflict. The Pledge is organized around four key principles called the Four G’s: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye, Gently restore, and Go and be reconciled.
The Peacemaker’s Pledge provides a clear track for your staff to follow when they face conflict. This response can speed the resolution of differences and enhance working relationships. As one worker reported,
When someone in our events department dropped the ball on an important seminar, my impulse was to call him and chew him out. But then the Pledge caught my eye, and I realized I needed to get the log out of my eye. So I walked over to his office, described the problem, and admitted that I may have failed to communicate my need to him clearly. He took full responsibility for it, and immediately acted to correct things. We’re now working even better together.
3. Teach Peacemaking to Your Staff
Guiding People Through Conflict
Surveys of pastors consistently show that few church leaders have received adequate training on conflict management. Pastors are told they should make peace, but they are seldom told how to do it in practical terms. If pastors with years of Bible college or seminary training are weak in this area, it is understandable that the average Christian needs practical, nuts-and-bolts guidance.Many organizations are making up for this deficit by teaching peacemaking at two levels. First, they are providing classes or written and audio resources on basic conflict resolution skills to every employee. Second, they are encouraging human relations staff and gifted managers to go through more thorough training in peacemaking. This investment often produces swift benefits:
Gossip seriously damaged the reputation of four of our key employees. As the human resources director, I spent six hours walking them through personal peacemaking, which resulted in sincere confession and forgiveness. In addition to retaining valuable staff and our Christian witness, we saved at least $15,000 in recruiting, relocation, and training. Our executive director was delighted that we had recouped the entire cost of my reconciler training seven-fold by resolving just one dispute!
4. Use Conciliation Clauses in Your Contracts
We live in the most litigious era in history. As a result, many organizations find themselves being dragged into court by disgruntled employees or angry vendors. The financial and manpower costs of a lawsuit can be devastating, and negative publicity can wreak even greater damage to an organization’s reputation and donor base.
Most of this damage can be avoided if you keep your ministry out of court. One of the best ways to do so is to include conciliation clauses in all of your employee and vendor contracts, as well as your bylaws. These legally enforceable clauses (see court-tested text) require that if a dispute cannot be resolved through internal means, it must be resolved through biblical mediation or arbitration rather than litigation.
Here again a commitment to following biblical principles can produce many benefits. A man whose company builds churches observed,
The best thing about using these clauses is that they have eliminated more conflict at the start than they have had to resolve later. When we put an emphasis on biblical commands up front, people seem to conduct themselves better. In the three years since we started to use these clauses, we have not experienced any disputes that have gotten past the manager level. Not only is this a good witness, but it frees up valuable time to be more productive in our work and in our personal lives as well.
Ken Sande is an attorney, the author The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, Updated Ed. 2003), Peacemaking for Families (Tyndale, 2002), and founder of Peacemaker Ministries (www.Peacemaker.net), an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically.