May 06

Handling Conflict In Your LifeGroup


 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

That verse from the Psalms came quickly to mind as I walked behind my two tall sons last weekend during a family outing. They are now young adults juggling careers and the busyness of independent life. Happy memories surfaced as I watched them genuinely enjoying the time together.  Reminders of some ‘not-so-pleasant’ squabbles between them as boys popped up as well. There were some serious conflicts that had to be worked through in order to build the strong relationship they enjoy today. That’s not too surprising, is it?  Every family experiences some level of conflict. We may not like it, but we aren’t completely surprised by it either.

Conflict can take us by surprise when it enters other areas of our lives, especially within Christian community. How naive I was in my early days of ministry on the mission field. I thought that because we all loved the Lord, we would never disagree, get irritated or offended. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen. Community is beautiful, but it can be messy. This can be discouraging and even daunting when you are a LifeGroup leader and the conflict is right in the middle of your own LifeGroup.  What should we do when conflicts arise? Though each situation is unique, here are a few reminders as you and your LifeGroup face times of conflict.

  • Don’t Fear It.
    • Conflict is a natural, albeit challenging, part of community life when people are going beyond surface relationships. Differing opinions, irritations, hurt feelings, negative attitudes and disagreements of varying degrees can surface in the midst of even the most loving relationships. Conflict is not necessarily the problem. How we handle it can be.
  • Don’t Ignore It.
    • Though there are definitely times when we need to just “let it go” and let time heal, conflict left unresolved over time can be the perfect environment for bitterness and resentment to gain a strong foothold in a person’s life. God calls us to unity and that may mean that you as a leader will need to recognize conflict and help your LIfeGroup members to face it well.How?
      • Step Back:
        • Take Time to gain perspective before addressing the conflict.
        • What are the facts and the perspectives of those involved?
        • Is the conflict escalating or being resolved?
        • Do you need to step in or leave it alone?
      • Reach Out:
        • Pray for wisdom and discernment.
        • Seek wise counsel.
        • If you find yourself in a situation that is beyond what you feel you can handle, please reach out to your coach or the staff and ask for help.
      • Wade In:
        • Communicate and cultivate a value and commitment to unity and reconciliation within your LifeGroup before conflict ever enters the picture.
        • Maintain confidentiality and talk through the conflict with only those involved.  If the conflict arises during a LifeGroup meeting, you may need to defuse it at that time and revisit it when things have calmed down.
        • When a LifeGroup member shares with you about a conflict involving another person, encourage him/her to talk to the person about it.   Be willing to go with them, if needed.
        • Communicate the Truth.  God calls us to extend grace, to love even when we have been hurt or offended, to forgive and to work towards resolving conflict in a God-honoring way. There is great blessing that comes when we don’t shy away from conflict but address it with love, respect and commitment.
          • Note: There are times when you as a leader will have done everything you know to do and the conflict remains unresolved.  We cannot force people to forgive and be reconciled.  We can only encourage them to do so.
      • Grow From it:
        • Determine as a LifeGroup to see conflict as a way of growing into maturity in Christ.  We have an enemy that will do almost anything to keep things stirred up.  He thrives on disunity.  What an incredible victory it is when we choose to follow Christ’s example.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

Yes, community can be messy, but how beautiful it is to see relationships grow deeper and stronger as your LifeGroup works through the challenges of conflict and stands firm in their commitment to one another.  Learning to face conflict well in your LifeGroup may be a critical step in helping people to know how to face it well in their families, workplace and beyond.



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