Using Mediation to Resolve Conflicts in the Church

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As I discussed in my last blog, disagreements happen.  The question I would ask us to consider is, as Christians how should we process disagreements?  Certain at times litigation may be the only alternative, especially if criminal activity is involved in the cause of the disagreement. 

Over the last few decades I have been involved in the process of mediation.  I have been trained in general mediation, Justice Court mediation, and Family Mediation.  I have applied the process of mediation in my counselor as a Pastor.  Family Disputes, Marriage Counseling and Parent-Child conflicts are all areas that I have applied the process of mediation.  In fact, most counseling that Pastors offer is not therapeutic but rather what I would consider to be Biblical and practical counseling.  If I suspected any psychological problems, I would refer the individuals to a psychiatrist.  I have become increasingly convinced that the leaders in our churches should become familiar with the mediation process and urge our pastors to educate themselves in the mediation process as well.  Some years ago I had spoken to the Seminary about integrating the process in their pastoral care courses and never found out if they had done so or not done so. 

The core concept of the mediation process is that the conflict is defined as objectively as possible and then the conflict becomes the objective assignment that both parties attempt to find a solution.  It gives both parties the opportunity to fully express themselves and hear each others’ perspective.  Without going into the details of the process, I will say I have been amazed how effectively it has worked in highly emotional situations such as child custody, marriage conflicts and business conflicts.

I believe it is a process that allows us to settle disagreements with understanding, compassion and many times wholeness in what was once a broken relationship.

I would urge every consistory to spend some time investigating the process and perhaps finding ways to educate leaders in the process as one option to resolve disagreements. 

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I agree, Al. When I was in college I spent a semester in LA where I had an internship with West Angeles Community Mediation Center. I took a 30 hour mediation training course and have found it helpful in personal relationship. I've often wondered how mediation could be more fully applied to church life and dissagreements. The principles involved in seeking win-win solutions, common ground, compromise, and reconciliation all amount to loving your neighbor as yourself and seek his or her best while resolving conflict. Training in mediation could greatly benefit pastors, elders, and congregations.

Thanks Al. In addition to mediation I think consensus building workshops and polarity management are a couple of other effective tools that are underutitilzed in the CRC.

A most frequently used model for making difficult decisions is voting. This might be the only workable option in some situations but we should also be realistic about the consequences of a vote. It creates winners loosers and sets up conditions that will probably fuel ongoing conflict.