"Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional."
While conflict is indeed inevitable, we can do some things Christianly to minimize the likelihood of conflict. Much of this I have learned far later than I wished in my ministry, so I'm hopeful some of you younger leaders can benefit from my late-arriving wisdom. And in many ways, I still struggle. Just keeping it real.
Three keys, I think:
1) Do the right thing.
2) Do the right thing in the right way.
3) Do the right thing in the right way at the right time.
I didn't way it was earth shaking. Just helpful.
First, do the right thing. And honestly, if I don't do the right thing, I'd hope for conflict! Someone should care enough about us, about our ministries and our churches, more importantly about the kingdom of God and His reputation to get in our way when we do the wrong thing.
Sometimes you and I don't know we're doing the wrong thing until the right person steps in our way. This has beautiful and difficult implications for leadership. It means we can lead with humility because we admit we don't always know what the right thing is. It means we can welcome input from those we lead because they may know a right way that we've not yet discovered. This is just one reason team leadership is better than solo leadership. The wisdom writer nailed it:
Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
Many advisors bring success.
(Prov. 15:22 NLT)
Second, do the right thing in the right way. This is probably where I messed up most in the first 15 years of ministry. There are processes in place for a reason. If I don't like them and disregard them, I should expect conflict. If you are frustrated by the committees (sometimes perceived as hoops to jump through) required to do the right thing in the right way, get some help from a key leader in your ministry. Otherwise it might needlessly cripple your effectiveness if you disregard the process.
I'm embarrassed that it was in the church that I was introduced to the phrase, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission." While I agree that it is usually easier, I can't seem to figure out how it is more Christian. Walk through the process in the right way. Ask permission. You will prevent a great deal of conflict, frustration, and even agony.
Third, do the right thing in the right way at the right time. This may be the most difficult of the three. Most of us who have been entrusted with a leadership position have gotten there because we usually do the right thing. Doing things the right way is simply a matter of choosing to do so. But doing things at the right time requires personal, spiritual, and cultural sensitivity.
Some questions that might serve your journey: Is it the right time for you, personally? Do you have the time? Have you allowed this "right thing" to adequately mature in your mind?
So how about you? What have you discovered that helps prevent unnecessary conflict?