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MANAGING CONFLICT IN THE CONGREGATION. A Presentation to the Congregations of the Michigan District - LCMS Prepared by The Rev. Dr. Peter Larsen, Director Unity Ministry: A Ministry of Mediation. UNDERSTANDING LEVELS OF CONFLICT.

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MANAGING CONFLICT IN THE CONGREGATION

A Presentation to the Congregations of the Michigan District - LCMS

Prepared by

The Rev. Dr. Peter Larsen, Director

Unity Ministry: A Ministry of Mediation


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UNDERSTANDING LEVELS OF CONFLICT

The following material is based on materials prepared by the Alban Institute entitled “Conflict Intensity Chart.”


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LEVEL ONE: A Problem Needing Solving

1. Issue

2. Emotions

3. Orientation

4. Information

5. Language

6. Objective

7. Outcome

Characteristics

Real disagreement, conflicting goals and needs

Short-lived anger quickly controlled; parties begin to be uncomfortable in presence of others

Tends to be problem oriented rather than person oriented

Open sharing of information

Clear and specific

Solving the problem. Move to unanimous agreement. Use collaborative style

Collaborative agreement if possible. Win/win final end with acceptable mutually agreed solution


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LEVEL TWO: Disagreement

Characteristics

1. Issue

2. Emotions

3. Orientation

4. Information

5. Language

6. Objective

7. Outcome

Real disagreement with mixing of personalities and issues and problem cannot be easily defined

Distrust begins. Caution in associations; less mixing with the “other side.”

Begin personalizing problem…shrewdness & calculations start

Selective hold back of information occurs by both sides

More vague & general: “some people…” “they” Hostile humor and barbed comments and put downs

Face saving; come out looking good. Tend toward consensus. Not yet “win/lose conflict”

Attempt collaborative solution or negotiate acceptable agreement; win/win with real effort


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LEVEL THREE: Contesting(this is the level for outside consulting to come in)

Characteristics

1. Issue

2. Emotions

3. Orientation

4. Information

5. Language

6. Objective

7. Outcome

Win/lose begins. Resistance to peace overtures. Focus on persons representing the “enemy”

Not able to operate in presence of “enemy” though admire worthy opponent. Not willing to share emotions constructively

Personal attacks. Formation of sides (often sides have names)

Distortion is major problem and information shared only within factions

Overgeneralizations. Attribute diabolical motives to others…”you always” … “we never”

Shifts from self-protection to winning. Clustering of issues

Decision making. Mediation. Compromising. Possible some will leave the church


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LEVEL FOUR: Fight/Flight

Characteristics

1. Issue

2. Emotions

3. Orientation

4. Information

5. Language

6. Objective

7. Outcome

Shifts from winning to getting rid of person(s) as no longer believe others can change or want them to change

Cold self-righteousness and will not speak to the other side

Factions solidified and clear lines of separation

Only limited to cause being advocated and will not listen to contrary information

Talk now of “principles” not “issues” and language moves to ideology

No longer winning: now eliminate other(s) from the church and hurt them.

High probability of splitting church with many leaving


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LEVEL FIVE:Intractable (may be wrong at this level to keep church together. May need a split without hurting each other)

Characteristics

1. Issue

2. Emotions

3. Orientation

4. Information

5. Language

6. Objective

7. Outcome

Conflict unmanageable. Personalities are the issue: no understanding of any other issue

Relentless obsession to accomplish objective(s) at all cost. Vindictive. No objectivity or control of emotions

See person(s) as harmful to society, not just to our church

Skewed to accomplish the objective at all costs

Focuses on words implying destruction and/or elimination of the other

To destroy the offending party/person and to see that the fired person does not get a job elsewhere

Highly destructive. May be necessary to remove members from church. Possible formation of judicial commission


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CONCERNING LEVELS ONE - FOUR

If invited in, the mediator from Unity Ministry explains the characteristics and help churches resolve the issues before they become intractable. This might be done by showing the deeper levels of conflict toward which a church is heading if they do not resolve their issues. Unity Ministry would seek the following outcomes:

  • Teaching about conflict

  • Clarifying the issues

  • Helping disputants talk in a safe and calm environment

  • Help move toward a win/win agreement

  • Negotiate a written Agreement after much listening and talking by all involved


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UNITY MINISTRY:A Ministry of Mediation

For questions and/or assistance in managing conflict, particularly for Levels 2-4, contact the director of Unity Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Peter Larsen, at 888.225.2111 or [email protected]


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