Resolving Team Conflict

Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya.
You may have sung this song around a campfire before.  It is an American spiritual and folk song.
What does Kumbaya mean?  

Kumbaya refers to moments of harmony and unity.

That is what we strive for in ministry.  We know that God blesses ministries that are unified by a vision to reach the world with the Gospel.  

But sometimes there can be conflict on a staff or volunteer team.  Team members bring different perspectives and knowledge to the table.  And this can lead to conflict.  Conflict is going to happen.  Conflict between staff members.  Conflict between volunteers.   

As a leader, it is important that you help resolve conflict in a Biblical manner.  Let's look at some ways you can do this. 
Champion unity.  
Teach team members the importance of unity.  Share verses like these.

"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. "  
1 Corinthians 1:10

"Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."  
2 Corinthians 13:11
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   
John 13:35
"How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!" 
Psalm 133:1  

Help resolve conflict.  Here are some tips for this. 
Listen to both parties.   Give those involved in the conflict an opportunity to express their perspective on the situation.  It is important that everyone is given time to state their opinion and be heard. 
Make sure both parties are heard.  Don't let one person dominate the conversation or try to intimidate the other people.  Ask them to pause and let others express their opinions uninterrupted.  People with domineering personalities will do just that - dominate if you let them.  Make sure those who are introverted have the opportunity to express themselves as well.

Articulate what you heard.  Repeat the key points of what people said to make sure everyone heard the same thing.   
Take steps to bring reconciliation:
1. Bring both parties together.  It is vital to talk it out together.
2.  Set some ground rules before getting the conversation underway.  Encourage team members to listen to one another, respect each other's points of view and not interrupt or make personal comments. 

3. Keep the tone of the conversation calm and non-threatening.

4. Encourage both parties to practice active listening.  This will help people understand where the other person or party is coming from.

5. If things get heated, pause the conversation and give everyone time to calm down.

6. Encourage people to share ideas.  Brainstorm together. What do they need to come to a solution?  What will they commit to?

7. Create a reconciliation plan. Get both parties to commit to a plan with detailed, agreed-on actions. 

8. Hold both parties accountable to complete the plan.
9. Follow up. Check back to make sure the issues have been properly resolved.  

Here are some steps to lessen the amount of conflict:

  • Meet with team members one-on-one on a regular basis to hear their thoughts about their role and how unity is being lived out.  This can help team members not make assumptions.

When you have unity, it will bring God's blessings upon your ministry.  Unity doesn't happen by accident. It has to be something you are committed to as a team.