Sometimes the work of ministry seems filled with conflict, which can make the pastor’s calling difficult and frustrating. Most pastors are highly committed and many are driven to care deeply for others. This is a great strength, but it can become a tremendous weakness when the pastor attempts to satisfy all of the expectations—fair and unfair—of the congregation.
As a result of this misguided caring, two things happen. First, leaders become exhausted, sometimes destroying their lives and those of their families. Second, leaders send the wrong message to their congregations: “Yes, I am the one who can heal your wounds salve your pain and make your life work.”
In order to thrive in ministry we must learn how to discern between legitimate and illegitimate expectations and how to help others have the same discerning wisdom.
Every pastor that experiences conflict believes instinctively the conflict itself is the problem. “Help us get around or through or over or to avoid this conflict,” they say when they call for help. Such pastors lie awake at night always hoping and praying that the conflict that is tearing them apart will go away, or at least the source of conflict will get a job transfer to another city!
A core message of Transforming Church is that conflict is not our enemy. It is our ally. That’s right, conflict is our friend!
Conflict is inescapable because of the major differences between human beings. Honestly, it is a wonder there is actually not more conflict than we already experience.
The problem is not conflict itself but how people relate to one another when they are in conflict.
Conflict is both good and necessary because it elicits different points of view clears the air and makes it possible to resolve extraordinarily complex issues.
These points are counterintuitive and might even strike you as slightly nuts. That’s okay. We’re glad explored the topic this far and only hope you will continue to think it through. We offer these reflections with both affection and hope. Affection for the men and women in ministry who are laying their lives on the line, but are struggling with internal and external conflict. And hope: we hope that you can find the wisdom and strength not only to survive but also to thrive through ministry conflict and find hard-won joy and fulfillment in the process. These are the true victories of ministry.
Joe Jurkowski is the CEO and a principal at TAGConsulting. Joe is a strategic thinker, a leader in applying systems theory in organizational settings, an entrepreneur, and a well-respected leader. He is a master consultant who can reframe complex organizational problems in ways that mobilize leadership to find the right solutions.