Conflicting Views Arise

I hate conflict, with a passion. I have to admit that I try my best to avoid it at all cost. However, conflict comes to all churches in various ways. If you are the pastor that means you will often be the one to manage conflict. I do not have the perfect answer to all problems, but here are some insights of conflict in a small-town church.

1) All conflict involves everyone.

 

Whether it is a couple going through a divorce, board members in disagreement, or a family dealing with illness bringing conflict from the stress; the conflict affects everyone. It always amazes me that people in a small-town church think their issues and disagreements are private or unknown affairs. The reality is everyone knows something is wrong, and in some way it will have a negative effect on everyone.

2) Most churches live in avoidance, causing small issues to become large issues.

Conflict is considered so evil by most people that any level of disagreement is pushed into the background. Many small issues build until, like a volcano building pressure, things explode. Then people say things they wouldn’t otherwise say and do things they would otherwise not do.

3) The heart of most conflict is an improper view of me, we, and He.

We all are born into sin, and selfishness often rears it’s head and causes us to take up issues that are me verses we issues. When we push our issues against others we forget that in the church, it is supposed to be a we mentality, because we should work in community. Even more important, we forget that in the church it isn’t about me and it isn’t about we because in reality it’s about He. We are not the body of ourselves, our town, our denomination, or our church. We are a part of the Body of Christ, so it is about Him.
Conflict can’t always be avoided, but we can be calmer through conflict if we take a lot more time to pray through issues, and follow the good advice of Matthew 18.

1) Deal with conflict early at the smallest level possible.

Don’t let things build until it explodes. Instead involve only those who need to be. Never drag others into the problem who aren’t involved.

2) Only escalate situations to involve others if necessary.

Jesus said to take a friend if we can’t solve the solution. And, we only involve the leaders if that doesn’t work.

3) If situations come to the point that it can’t be resolved never stop praying.

Jesus says to treat a person lost in their sin, who we have tried to reach as we would other sinners. In history many thought this meant to disown or ignore them. However, when we see how Jesus treated sinners it changes our view. He kept trying to reach them ate with them and gave them dignity. We should never let our conflict keep us from praying and caring for the others we are in conflict with. In the end, if it isn’t about you or me, and it is about Christ we should beware that both sides may be wrong. Praying for others often brings clarity and understanding as the Holy Spirit works on our hearts.

4) Pray, Pray, Pray:

We can never underestimate the power of prayer to change our hearts and to overcome the greatest conflicts. We must pray and take time away from the situation to gain better perspective and direction in all situations. The Holy Spirit can change things in us and in situations that nothing we do can ever overcome. So, it should be our first, continual, and last step in dealing with any level of conflict. Trust God’s Spirit to guide you through.
May God Bless you in your leadership journey.

Planning in Ministry: 3 Considerations

by D.G. Shipton

We are in the early day’s of a New Year, and it is a fresh start for us all.  It is a good time to reflect back on what you have been doing, with God’s help.  It is also a great time to think about what is to come in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In the past several years I have been learning more and more to plan my busy schedule, because in the Small-Town ministry it is easy to get caught up in many different demands that can derail the main purpose of our service to God.  Most of my sermon schedules have grown from planning series, to planning an entire year, at least last year.  Many of the churches activities and ministries have plans that must be made, so that letters, notes, and promotions can be made up and distributed in timely manner.

Planning in ministry will keep you on track in those days when you wonder if you are really making an impact, and whether the effort is worth it.  When you have a plan, it can keep you focused even through these tough times.

Planning in ministry helps to keep others informed.  If you have to promote events planning is essential, so that you can get promotions out ahead of time.  Since most of our events in the Small-Town setting are carried out with volunteers, planning helps to keep those involved informed and up to date with changes and needs.  You will also be able to seek out the advice or ideas of others for projects, teaching, preaching or other ministry when they are included in the plan.

Planning in ministry helps to create clarity and variety in ministry.  Clarity of information and teaching or preaching grows stronger as you plan ahead.  It gives time to get needed research so that you can present a clearer understanding of the subject.  It helps with variety, since you are less likely to repeat the same stories or even the same songs as often if you have a plan to follow.

The challenge for you is to take some time in these early days of the year to give thanks to God for what he has allowed you to help with in the past year.  Then take some time in prayer and thought to plan what God may want to do in the coming year in your ministry.  May God help you as you plan ahead in the ministry you have been given.

 

                         ( Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a> )

Managing and Lowering the Stress of Helping Ministries

One of the greatest blessings and curses that comes in ministry is in the area of helping others in need.  Much of our ministries is filled with helping people in various kinds of need.  This means that we are often approached at times that are inopportune for other parts of our daily work.  In many larger churches their are individual ministers,  office assistants, or other gate keepers who handle many of those who come seeking needs.  They are able to direct them to the best kind of help they can get, and they free much of the pastoral staff and senior pastors to do what they are called to do.  However, in the small-town church we are  often the only person available on any given day to handle these needs and crisis’ that arise.

I was once running a spiritual gifts class at a church.  When it came time to share with one another I revealed my strengths in preaching, teaching, and administration.  I remember that several people were surprised that my weakest area was mercy.

One woman in the group commented, “I would think that a pastor would be quite strong in mercy.”

I replied, “Before, I entered ministry I was far higher in my gift of mercy.  I think that it has been the years of having to judge whether people coming to me really had needs, or were just trying to swindle the system.  It can leave you a lot less merciful when you are have to help or tell people you can’t help at times.”

I have added over twelve years in ministry since then.  I would like to say the gift of mercy has returned.  However, the responsibility of caring for accounts to help people in need and trying to determine who we can and cannot help still makes me a bit cold at times.  I personally would love to help every person who comes to my door or to my church requesting help.  Yet, we can’t help everyone.

I am really being challenged in just how involved a minister should be in managing or passing out funds or help for a church or ministry.  In Acts 6:1-7, the apostles told the church at the time to pick leaders from among them to care for the needs of the widows and orphans.  Their reason was that they could be devoted to prayer and teaching.  While we as ministers are not the apostles, we are responsible for the spiritual life and training of our churches.  Perhaps it would be best if we looked harder at what we should be passing off to others.

The following are some things I have learned from my own experience, from working with a well run food pantry, and working with other churches who have helping ministries.  You may have other things to share, but I give you some things to advise you in doing helping ministries, especially people seeking financial help.

  1. Try to involve laity, or put laity in charge:  The best run food pantry I have had the privilege of working with is completely run by laity.  Reports are given to local church involved, but it is church members who run the entire pantry.  It is also Biblical to let people gifted in their areas of mercy to do the needed work.  This will also help to lower stress to you as a leader.
  2. Have written policies:  Written policies help you to be able to explain to those seeking help what your ministry actually helps with, and clearly states what limits or requirements there may be to such help.  You may want to include:
    1. Clarify the geographical area, in which your Helping Ministry is working.  The churches and pantries that I have seen manage the best were clear as to who they were trying to help.  It might be your particular village, town, or school district.  Such limits guarantee who will be helped.
    2. Clarify the requirements needed for someone seeking assistance from your Helping Ministries.
      1. Often this may include proof of where they live.
      2. Proof of income, to qualify for need.
      3. Proof of where money is going.  As example, you are helping with utilities it is usually most responsible to have a copy of a bill and write checks to the specific utility.
    3. Clarify the limits of your Helping Ministries.
      1. Is there a cut off to how much your helping ministry can or is able help?  While we may want to help people without condition, we simply would run a ministry dry if all we did was give out money without any limit.  This is irresponsible to those who work or give to help our ministry as well.
      2. Is there a limit on how often a person can come to seek help.  A local food pantry may have on going help, but to help more people they may say that people can only receive a food box once a month.  A ministry helping with utilities may limit such help to once a year.  Such limits provide more people opportunity to get help, while helping to keep people from becoming tied to needing our help.
  3. Have a reporting system for your Helping Ministry.  There should be some regular report that is given to the greater community of how funds have been distributed.  This should not include names, but should include the amount of people or families helped.  It should include what has been received into the ministry and what has been given out.  People like to know that others are helped by what they give.
  4. Thank people who give and volunteer who help your Helping Ministry.  People are more willing to help when they know they are appreciated.

Again, you may find some more specific needs that your particular ministry has.  However, having such plans in place will help you in running stronger helping ministries.  Hopefully, it will help to lower the stress to you if you are in charge of such ministries too.  May you continue to be blessed as you pass on the blessings you have been put in charge of in your ministries.