Handling Conflict in Children’s Ministry: Biblical Principles and Practical Advice

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever received an angry complaint via email or text message. Now, think about that incident and imagine what the “conversation” may have sounded like if it had happened over the phone. What about in person?

The fact of the matter is that when dealing with conflict or complaints a good rule of thumb is to deal with them in person, face-to-face. Here are some guidelines that I’ve learned (mostly by mistake) through my time in ministry:

1. Respond to challenging/threatening/slandering emails slowly and with much care and prayer

Email is often considered the most impersonal way to communicate, and those in ministry may find themselves facing difficult situations through this medium. This is especially true in children’s ministry, where conflicts may arise regarding young children. These types of emails can take you by surprise, and it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion. To avoid this, be cautious when responding and take some time to pray before typing. It’s also helpful to give yourself time to calm down before responding to an emotional email. Remember, we may say things through email that we would never say in person.

2. Never respond through email to what you would not want your parents or boss to read –

You never know who’ll be forwarded something you’ve written. Whatever you write through email, especially when responding to conflict, always be okay with anyone reading it. This will help you choose your words carefully. Your email correspondence with the person in conflict is rarely a private exchange.

3. Offer to talk on the phone or meet in person if an issue cannot be resolved

Nothing good comes from emailing back and forth when a simple phone call or face-to-face exchange can clear things up quickly.

4. Use the phone or face-to-face contact when you need to talk to someone about something serious

don’t blast them with an email, either.

5. Use email mainly for distilling of information –

At one point, I got so many emails about certain conflicts that I considered getting rid of my email. No email would then equal less conflict in my mind; therefore, if it’s worth writing email after email about, then it’s worth meeting in person or at least on the phone.

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