Skip to main content

Community Killers: Conflict

Sometimes people don’t get along. Sometimes disagreements between people can tear a group apart if not handled well. That is not to say conflict should be avoided. One of the greatest "killers" of positive group life is an avoidance of conflict. While conflict should never be fun, it is a necessary aspect of living in a fallen world. We are different people with differing ideologies (because we don't always grab on to the "mind of Christ"), and so we must learn to communicate about those differences in healthy ways.

Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team has an excellent chapter on how to engage in healthy conflict. Below are some of his ideas, altered a bit to fit the small group context.


  • Good conflict between people requires trust, which is all about engaging in unfiltered, passionate discussion around issues.
  • Even in the best relationships, conflict will at times be uncomfortable.
  • Rules for conflict, though they will vary from relationship to relationship, must be discussed and made clear among the group.
  • The fear of occasional personal conflict should not deter a person from having regular, productive discussion.

The goal of conflict is to move from artificial harmony to true unity, without crossing into mean-spirited attacks. This takes time, patience, trust, but most importantly it takes a thick skin and a forgiving, teachable spirit. Engaging in this kind of conflict will undoubtedly cause some pain from time to time, but it is crucial to remember that the same pain you have experienced is the pain you are capable of causing if you do not seek to be constructive in your conflict.

As a group leader, here are some more ideas to help you navigate your group through times of conflict.

  • As much as possible, reduce the number of people involved in the conflict. If only a few people are in conflict with each other, set up times to work with just them, don’t force the entire group into a conflict unless it is appropriate or necessary.
  • Listen. Be certain you understand all “sides” of the conflict. The best way to do this is to listen, rephrase the person’s viewpoint (asking them if you have it right), then listen some more, then rephrase some more… Continue until you and all involved parties are certain you have a good understanding.
  • Pray together. Praying about conflict forces people to consider whether or not their part in the conflict is appropriate in the eyes of God. Prayer is also the most powerful weapon the believer has in accomplishing a difficult task.
  • Be patient. Conflict resolution takes time, don’t expect to solve everything immediately.
  • Lose your pride. Don’t assume you can always bring resolution to conflict (there may be times when you are involved in the conflict yourself). It is always appropriate to seek outside help (pastor, friend, counselor) if you feel the conflict demands more than you have to offer.

Ultimately, conflict in a small group should be viewed as an opportunity, but a dangerous opportunity. Handled correctly, conflict can bring new understanding, deeper understanding, and greater love toward one another. Handled incorrectly, conflict can destroy individuals, relationships, and groups.

As you consider the issue of conflict, give thought to these words from John Piper:

“Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life-giving truth. Running from it is a sign of cowardice. But enjoying it is usually a sign of pride.”[1]

[1] Desiring God by John Piper


Popular posts from this blog

Discussion Questions for Easter

Have several people ask the question, “What’s the most important thing you’ve ever done?”
Ask other people, “What do you hope to accomplish in the next several years of your life?”
Tell your class that today you’ll be talking about “life mission” or the one most important thing you do that drives everything else. Tell them that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the defining moment in history, so it should be the defining moment in our lives.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. How does the resurrection impact some of the crucial beliefs of Christianity? 
How would Christianity be different if there was no resurrection? How would you be different without the resurrection?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. What are some specific ways that the resurrection gives us hope?
If you had been a friend of Jesus when he was on earth, how would the resurrection have impacted your life? 
How do you think his followers then were effected by the resurrection?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:58. What do you t…

20 Questions to Build Group Connections

Here is a great exercise for a new group. The instructions are pretty simple. Go around the group giving each person the opportunity to choose one question and answer it honestly. Anyone can follow-up with an opinion or clarifying question (no critiquing each other's answers, though). Once a question has been answered, no one else may answer that question.

If your group is larger, you may want to alter the rule and allow each question to be answered 2 or 3 times. Ideally, each person should end up answering 3-5 questions.

As the leader, pay attention to the conversation. Let the discussion run its course as this is how people in the group build their relationships with one another. You can use these questions, modify them or create your own.

21 Bible Passages With Which Every Small Group Leader Should Be Familiar

Matthew 5:23-24.
23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Luke 10:1-11.
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to hous…