Help for engaging conflict well


Conflict is a normal part of life, but many of us have difficulty engaging it in productive ways. Here are some time-tested resources that give guidance, not only for church conflicts, but also for working through conflict in a variety of settings.

  • The Arbinger Institute. (2008). The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict. Berrett-Koehler.
Told in story form, this book looks at the heart of human relationships and the roots of conflict. Though it does not claim to be a Christian book, its teachings are deeply consistent with the gospel.
  • Richardson, R. (1996). Creating a healthier church: Family systems theory, leadership, and congregational life. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Why are some congregations more easily thrown into intense conflict than others? Pastors will find Richardson’s foundational work especially helpful, but laity have much to gain from it as well.
  • Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.
This New York Times best-seller is especially useful for those who supervise others. The communications skills it teaches can be used by everyone.
  • Hixon, S., & Porter, T. (2011). The journey: Forgiveness, restorative justice and reconciliation. Women's Division, The General Board of Global Ministries.
Learn from two pros who have dedicated themselves to the work of conflict transformation in church and community. The Rev. Hixon will be a featured speaker at the June 2015 session of Annual Conference.
  • Boers, A. (1999). Never call them jerks: Healthy responses to difficult behavior. Bethesda (MD): Alban Institute.
A careful and well-researched exploration of why unhealthy patterns of behavior thrive in congregations. This is a great summary of much of the work done in the field of church conflict