Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch … Guest Post by Frank Chiapperino

Today is a big deal for me!  I get to share Frank Chiapperino with my readers.  Frank is a great friend who has my deepest respect.  Frank has a huge heart for leadership and for connecting people to each other and to God.  For several years, I served on Frank’s small group ministry team at our church in Pennsylvania.  I’ve had the privilege of hitting a few conferences with Frank, catching several breakfasts and lunches with him, and sharing leadership/social media/blogging ideas.  Frank is probably the biggest reason that I started The Stretched Blog.  Frank is now pastoring a church in Minnesota, but we still keep in touch from time to time.  You can follow Frank on Twitter or at one of his two blogs – Frank Chiapperino and  Check out these sites and become one of his regular readers.

(If you’re interested in sharing your STRETCHING story as a guest blogger here, drop me a comment so we can connect.)

Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch

I’m so delighted that Jon asked me to guest post on his blog.  I’ve known Jon for quite a few years and valued his friendship as I served and led ministries at the church he attends in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Currently I serve a church in Rochester, Minnesota and my role has changed.  What is stretching me now is leadership and managing conflict as our church works through change.

It kind of reminds me the challenges I navigate with my boys as a parent.  My boys are getting older and beginning to play together more and more often.  You know what that means… they fight more often too.  One time my wife Shelli made us some great french toast and we enjoyed breakfast together at the table as a family.  Shortly after, Shelli went up to shower and the boys were playing with cars and toys on their train table. They were enjoying themselves and seemed to be fine so I began reading today’s paper.

All of a sudden I hear my oldest son scream, “No AJ, NOOooooooo.”  Anthony (AJ) looked like King Kong on a path of destruction in the little town Michael had created on the train table.  Michael gave him a big shove and my youngest boy brandished his teeth like a german shepherd on the attack, going at his arm for the bite in defense. Luckily, I stepped in just in time and separated the construction engineer from the wrecking ball before any injuries occurred.  What I did next was set some ground rules for the boys. I gave them each a side on the table to play on and they each took a few toys to play with and asked them each to stay on their side. The rest of our morning was quite peaceful.

Sometimes as leaders we need to be a guiding presence and help others navigate through conflict. There are times I will have a staff member or another volunteer leader at our church call me and say, “Frank, I need help. There are some members of my team that are at each other’s throats.” For some strange reason they don’t share my joy when I say, “THAT IS GREAT!” When I manage conflict I normally start where many Christian leaders do, following Matthew chapter 18:

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

  • Go to them privately and confront them on the issue
  • If a private discussion doesn’t work take a witness. That means someone who has seen the behavior you are speaking to them about.
  • If that doesn’t work attempt to involve church leadership to aid in resolution of the problem.
  • If that fails, end the relationship.

That is pretty much what Matthew lays out, and it is sound advice that works. However, I do have a few other guiding principles I follow that aid in confrontation and conflict resolution:

  • Be wise with your words. Everything you say in a confrontation will either escalate or de-escalate a conflict. Try to use words and responses that we de-escalate the tension.
  • Don’t discuss nameless people. Sometimes people will say, “Someone told me…” If they refuse to use actual names of real people, don’t acknowledge it as a leader in the church. It only leads to pointless discussion because you can’t get the real person behind whatever it is involved.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it right away. This is powerful in conflict resolution. Think about it for a minute. How often do you hear people actually admit they are wrong? Not often, it is a real sign of maturity and it will have an immediate affect on the situation.
I find these guiding principles useful and I hope you do too. By the way… take a look at the picture below. Can you tell which side of the table belonged to Michael and which side was AJ’s?–

What would you add to Frank’s list above when it comes to resolving conflict?