Dealing with Conflict on Your Student Ministry Team [part 1]

We all dream of having “the perfect team” and think that we’ll never have problems or tension arise in our ministries.  I have  had that dream too… but I have been in youth ministry for more than 2 minutes, and that dream is LONG GONE.  Here is the reality: Teams have Tension from Time to Time.  Because teams are made up of human beings who are not perfect, conflict happens.  So it’s not about IF conflict will happen, but it’s about what you will do with it WHEN it happens.

So how do you handle conflict within your student ministry team as the team leader?

** I want to preface this post by saying that I am in no way an expert on conflict management.  What I am about to write is how I have chosen to handle conflict over the years.  It is “A” way…  there is no ONE WAY to do it.  I just hope that this can help someone.

1. ask for clarity

sometimes it is as simple as asking a team member to clarify what happened from their point of view.  A lot of the time a conflict happens because of a lack of communication.  Asking for clarity can sometimes start the process of communication that may have been the problem in the first place.  Other times when you ask for clarity, it reveals deeper issues that need to be explored.  That is when you…

2. confront with concern

at this point, you may need some more clarity, but you must confront the team member out of concern for them.  This can be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you are one who avoids confrontation… but it must happen.  I usually lead with something like, “I want you to know that I love you and care about you, but I need to talk about something that may be a little uncomfortable.” *{BTW… I am a person who really desires people to like me, so this is NEVER easy for me} In my experience this can usually diffuse some early emotional outbreaks… but not always.  Make sure that, even in the middle of the confrontation, the team member can sense your care for them.

The one thing that I am grateful for is that this hasn’t happened a lot over my years of ministry… and when it has, it has only ever become a big deal one time.  My prayer for student pastors is that we would lovingly deal with conflict when it arises and show people who Jesus is and how he would handle these type of situations so we all can become a lot more like Him.


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