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Adventist International Institute Of Advanced Studies Theological Seminary THE CAUSES OF CONFLICT AND HOW TO MANAGE IT IN ORGANIZATIONS AND THE CHURCH A Research Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Course LEAD 610 Organizational Behavior By Bryan Edward Sumendap June 2010

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Adventist International Institute Of Advanced Studies Theological Seminary


A Research Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Course LEAD 610 Organizational Behavior

By Bryan Edward Sumendap June 2010


Before becoming the US president, Barack Obama had a conflict with his church pastor, Jeremiah Wright, regarding the pastors remarks aimed directly at him. He then resigned from his church with some sadness saying, I suspect we'll find another church home for our family.1

This statement is a result of a disagreement between Mr. Obama and Pastor Wright. The disagreement could have been stopped, but it escalated up to a point of no return. Therefore, we have to agree with the fact that conflict is a part of our daily life. Everyone will have experience conflict at a certain time in their life. Conflict is defined as competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as 1 Associated Press, Obama Quits Controversial Church After Conflict with Pastor [newspaper online]; available from ; accessed on 5 May 2010. 1

2 of divergent ideas, interests, or persons.1 It is usually a flight toward towards different goals. A recent group discussion in a class defined conflict as: Conflict is an unavoidable incident between at least two incorrelational parties, to occupy something that is limited in its resources. It occurs because of desires, differences through struggle, in order to achieve that particular status. However, conflict can function positively.2 Therefore, conflict will always happen in any organizational setting. The argument below will clarify why conflict will arise. The way a society is organized can create both the root causes of conflict and the conditions in which it is likely to occur. If we look toward any society or organization that practices unequal treatment where in some people is treated unequally and unjustly, it is likely to erupt into conflict. This is enhanced especially if its leaders do not represent all the members of that society or organization. If an unequal

1 Mirriam Webster Dictionary, Conflict. Bryan Sumendap, Class Notes for LEAD 655 Management of Conflict and Problem Solving. Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Silang, Cavite, Philippines, September 2009.2

3 and unjust society is reformed, then conflicts will be rare. In corporations the results of conflicts are very damaging. Churches also have a fair share of the damages experienced by corporations. However, the resulting damages in a church are more serious considering the fact that most people severe their relationships with the church and oftentimes with God. A question then arises, Why then are church conflicts difficult to resolve? Firstly, we have to understand that churches operate with the dynamics very similar to large families. Secondly, while operating on that manner, they are also being a large volunteer organization. This organization operates on several different levels simultaneously. The volunteers that work in the church come from different backgrounds and have different expectations of the pastor and of each other. However, all these expectations are largely unexpressed, but are assumed to be known. Functioning within the churches are many smaller groupings of individuals based on interests, who also have unexpressed expectations. When these unexpressed interests and expectations clash, conflict will arise.

4 How then should we manage conflict situations? This brings us to the science that is involved in analyzing the above factors: organizational behavior. Overview of Organizational Behavior The development of organizational behavior field is a progressive one. This is done where one theorist takes on anothers research and goes further to a new point at another time frame. During this process, many theorists became famously known for their contributions such as Elton Mayo for the Hawthorne Studies, Douglas McGregor for Theory X and Theory Y, Abraham Maslow for the hierarchy of needs, Frederick Herzberg for the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, so on and so forth.1 According to W. G. Scott, Human relations affect management practices and give guidelines for managerial action.2 This approach combines various branches of 1 To read more about the various theories, see Hershey, Paul and Kenneth H. Blanchard. Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993; Roethlisberger and W. J. Dickson. Management and the Worker, 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938; McGregor, Douglas. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGrawHill, 1960; Herzberg, Frederick, Bernard Mausner and Barbara Snyderman. The Motivation to Work. New York: Wiley, 1959. William G. Scott, Organization Theory: An Overview and an Appraisal The Journal of the Academy of2

5 social science and integrates their theories and methods to solve work-related problems. Human relations is the result of the unique blend of the related disciplines psychology, social psychology, sociology and anthropology, that give rise to a better understanding of individuals. Furthermore, OB can be defined as the systematic study and application of human aspects in management of an organization, which involves the study of human behavior, attitudes, and performance in organizations.1 As an area of study, OB also studies concepts, theories, methods, and empirical generalizations in order to analyze behavior in organizations.2 Before the industrial revolution, people worked in small groups and had non-complicated work relationships among each other. They were, however,

_____________________ Management, 4 [1] (1961), 7-26. Don Hellriegel, John W. Slocum, Jr., and Richad W. Woodman, Organizational Behavior 8th ed. (Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Publishing, 1998), 4. Dennis W. Organ and Thomas S. Bateman, Organizational Behavior 4th ed. (Boston, MA: Richard D. Irwin Inc., 1991), 5.2 1

6 exposed to unhealthy working conditions and shortage of resources, so they hardly had any job satisfaction. During the early stages of the industrial revolution, the conditions of workers showed no signs of improvement. But as increased industrial activity led to greater supply of goods, wages, working conditions, and level of job satisfaction steadily improved. Today, leaders and administrators have access to management tools which are readily available through the internet, books and other mediums in order to assess job satisfaction of employees. These tools are meant to be used in the function of managing organizations. Church leaders will greatly benefit if they take time to learn more about organizational behavior and apply those skills in the church setting. Statement of the Problem Since it is already clear that conflict is something that cannot be avoided in our daily life, therefore, there is a need for pastors to be able to manage conflicts. However, before develop a proper method of conflict management, we have to understand the underlying factors that trigger conflicts. What are the causes of conflict? How to identify the symptoms in order

7 to pinpoint the problem sooner? What are the common styles, methods and strategies of conflict of management from the social science and from the Bible? Purpose and Methodology of the Study The purpose of the study is present the causes of conflict in an organization, the church in particular, and look at conflict management methods using principles from the social sciences. It is hoped that Pastors and administrators, even church members will benefit from this study. The primary method of the study will be library research, supported by internet research. Because most of the literature explained is from a Westerners point of view, the study will see conflict from a Western perspective. The study will begin by looking at the various causes of conflict in an organization. The causes of conflict will range to a variety of factors. From this point, the study will discuss the different styles and strategies conflict management. It will then conclude with a proposed method for a pastor to resolve conflict.


Gods people have experienced conflict throughout history. The first recorded conflict in the Bible is in Genesis 3, when man disobeyed God and fell into sin. The cause was disobedience. Men like Abraham, Moses, Job, David, and Jonah in the Old Testament and Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James in the New Testament, have experienced conflict. It is true that God was calling them in their life, but it does not dismiss the fact that they are sinners. Because of that fact, they experience conflict over issues with others and sometimes with God. The cause was sin, resulting in imperfection. Jesus also experienced conflict and in some instances initiated it. When He cleansed the temple (Matt 21:12-16), confronted the Pharisees (Matt 23), and corrected the disciples (Matt 8:26; Luke 24:25-26), He was engaging in conflict. Throughout the gospels, we find


9 a lot of evidence that Jesus was a very confrontational person, especially when the occasion demanded it. Many times Satan seeks to take advantage of Christians in conflict. When church members are involved in conflict, Satan encourages them to continue their dispute culminating in one of the parties involved to leave the church. We need to be aware of the strategies of Satan (Eph 6:11, 12). However, regardless of the facts stated above, we need to understand that God sometimes permits conflict to happen within His will. He does this to test us and this causes us to grow (1 Cor 11:18-19), it also force us to discover better and newer ways to do things (Acts 6:1-7). Conflict is inevitable in our life, although God created us to become perfect in His image (Gen 1:26). As discussed above, all Gods people even Jesus Himself has experienced conflict. The underlying cause of conflict from the Biblical point of view is sin, which makes us imperfect and causes death (Rom 6:33). Based on this theoretical basis, the discussion will proceed.

CHAPTER 3 CURRENT ISSUES Today the business of conflict management is booming. Corporations and churches seem to be in dire need of third party intervention to help them resolve their conflicts. Guidance Channel Online1 lists the Top Ten conflict management websites where companies can run for help when conflicts are plaguing them. Aside from this list, there are hundreds or even thousands of firms and consultants that offer conflict management services to clients. An abstract from a study entitled, Conflict Management: Trends and Issues Alerts2 clearly shows the

1 GC Staff, Top Ten Conflict Management Sites [online]; available from 1&cat=50; accessed on 10 June 2010. Bettina Lankard Brown, Conflict Management: Trends and Issues Alerts [online abstract]; available from rdDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_Searc hValue_0=ED417291&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED4 17291; accessed on 10 June 2010. 102

11 situation that many organizations have been facing since the late 90s up to the present: Because most workplace conflicts will likely be repeated under new circumstances and in new situations, the goal of conflict management is to empower workers to resolve their own differences of opinion before those differences escalate into conflict. Because of the negative impact of conflict on worker creativity, efficiency, and productivity, many organizations are hiring conflict management specialists to train their employees in positives ways of resolving differences. Adult educators, educational administrators, health care and business professionals, and human resource managers are among those who are assuming new roles as leaders in conflict management. Conflict management specialists are coming to the rescue to help conflict ridden companies. Lack of Ability Issue One issue that arose from this trend is that there seems to be a lack of ability on the part of employees in dealing with conflict. Because of this disability, intervention from outside is a must in order to create a working atmosphere that will maintain its productiveness. This is also true among church congregations. This disability can be caused by a lack of training issue among from the pastors. During their professional ministry, they have traditionally relied on

12 some pastoral roles, as outlined by Herbert W. Byrne, which they never formally trained for.1 When most pastors said yes to the call of God to ministry, they were probably not thinking about managing the church office. They saw themselves as preachers who will continually be behind the pulpit preaching the gospel, giving personal Bible studies, baptizing people, and eventually making disciples in harmony with the Great Commission. However, pastors or ministers are expected to be much more than the above description, they are expected to do more than that. Delbert W. Baker, President of Oakwood College, describes this high expectation when he said: Pastors, ministers, and church administrators in the twenty-first century are expected to possess such skills as proficiency in biblical knowledge, leadership ability, expertise in communication, proficiency in spiritual formation, ability to motivate, organizational mastery, conflict management, and competency in problem solving, to name a few.2

1 Herbert W. Byrne, The Pastor as Church Leader and Educator (Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2006), 21-55. Delbert W. Baker, The Story of Pastor Alpha, Ministry July-August 2005, 11.2

13 The pastor is also required to skilled in strategic planning, project management, human resource management, financial management, social marketing, and time management, even though he was never formally trained for management. Lack of Training Issue Another issue that arose is seen from the church point of view. In the local church setting, a pastor is always viewed as the leader. He is the one who people come to whenever they have problems. He is the leader of the church whose condition, as one Lutheran minister describes, may be full of hatred and venom than any other institution.1 Because of that nature, it is expected that many conflicts will arise inside the church. The pastor will be in the front line to tackle these difficulties. But without proper training, the pastor will not be capable to manage those difficulties properly. According to the Duke University National Clergy survey, two-thirds of clergy report that their 1 Richard Stoll Armstrong and Kirk Walker Morledge, Help! I'm a Pastor!: A Guide to Parish Ministry (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 2.

14 congregation has experienced some form of conflict over the past two years.1 Some twenty percent mention that the conflict was significant or major. This could be one of the causes why there are so many pastor burnout occurring.2 It could also be a reason why many pastors are leaving the ministry. The following discussion looks at some figures and statistics in regards to the trends that are happening in churches across America. The lack of data from Asian churches makes it not possible to include Asian churches trend. It does not, however, dismiss the possibility that the Asian churches could be following the same trend. Recent Studies on Conflict in the Church In the recent years the concern of studying conflict and its impact in the churches has been given a serious thought. This is due to the rise in church 1 Ibid., 178. The term used to describe a pastor who shows symptoms to give up, to be less compassionate to the hurting, or to ignore ministry opportunities because we are too busy. Dana Beatty, Pastoral Burnout and Brown Out October 27, 2004 [online]; available from 04-10-27.html; accessed 3 June 2010.2

15 problems related to conflict. We will look at two of the studies. 2006-2007 Duke University National Congregations Study Duke University has conducted two studies on congregations in America. The first study was conducted in 1998 and the second study was conducted in 2006-2007. They named this the National Congregations Study.1 more recent study surveyed 2,740 congregations in the United States. In their website, a visitor can browse through the data on all variables that are available. When browsing through the 2006-2007 data, under the conflict variable, it is found that: - 24% of congregations experienced a conflict in the last two years that was serious enough to call a special meeting - 26% of congregations experienced a conflict in the last two years that resulted in people leaving their congregations - 9% of congregations experienced a conflict that led leaders to leave the congregation - 7% of congregations were classified as persistently conflicted 1 The method used to come up with the figures given was to browse on the data, look under conflict and dig into the data. National Congregations Study Wave II, 2006-2007 [online]; available from ml; accessed on 3 June 2010. The

16 - 35% of congregations reporting conflict indicated that it was about clergy; 12% stated that their conflicts were about church leadership, which may or may not refer to clergy; 8% indicated that their conflicts were about money; and 48% of congregations surveyed selected the catch-all other category to describe the nature of their conflicts. One interesting finding about the congregations classified as persistently conflicted is that they accounted for 35 to 40% of all church conflict reported over a four-year period. The issues pertaining to the current practices of conditions of corporations and churches have been discussed. Therefore, an important thing that is to be done is to be able to identify the causes of conflict. FACT and CCSP Study Faith Communities Today (FACT) and the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), not-for-profit entities of the Hartford Seminary and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, released a report in 2005 titled, Insights into Congregational Conflict.1 This report is based on a survey of 14,301

congregations and also makes reference to Christianity Todays 2004 pastoral survey. 1 Hartford Seminary, Insights into Congregational Conflict [online]; available from t.pdf; accessed on 11 September 2009.

17 One notable finding of the said research is in connection to the prevalence of conflict. Seventy five

percent of the congregations surveyed reported some level of conflict in the past five years (1995 to 2000), and 20% reported that they were presently involved in active conflict. These findings indicate how important it is for congregations to prepare for conflict so that it does not negatively affect their health and effectiveness. Indeed, this study states that understanding how conflict impacts congregations strikes us as an absolute necessity.1 Study by David and Diane Noble In their most recent book, David and Diane Noble, presents readers with statistics regarding the effects of congregational conflict. They say that more than 19,000 congregations experience major conflict every year. 25% of the churches in one survey reported conflict in the previous five years that was serious enough to have a lasting impact on congregational life.

1 Ibid., 1.

18 Only 2% of church conflict involves doctrinal issues, while 98% of church conflict involves interpersonal issues. Control issues ranked as the most common cause of conflict (85%). Because of this, about 40% of church members who leave their churches do so because of conflict. In regards to the effects to the pastor, they say that the average pastoral career lasts only 14 years less than half of what it was not long ago. Around 1,500 pastors leave their assignments every month in the United States because of conflict, burnout or moral failure. 45% of the pastors terminated in one denomination left the ministry altogether. While 34% of all pastors presently serve congregations that forced their previous pastor to resign.1 The next section will identify the causes of conflict by looking at literature.

1 David and Diane Noble, Winning the Real Battle (Kansas City, MO: BHC Publishing, 2009), 171.

CHAPTER 4 CAUSES OF CONFLICT The discussions in the previous chapters have shown us that the effects of conflict are sometimes disastrous. There should be a way to come out of it, some means to identify the causes. This chapter will review related articles in regards to identifying the causes of conflict in and organization or the church. The Core of Conflicts In order for leaders to develop skills in avoiding, analyzing, and addressing conflict, we have to understand what lies at the center of the problems. The authors of Unconditional Excellence, quotes from Ken Sandys book, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, regarding the three major reasons serious differences arise: 1. Lack of Humility: Everything revolves around me, my and mine. As long as we focus on ourselves, well always have disharmony. 2. Lack of Alignment: People are at variance because they dont know where theyre going. Either they think theyre in agreement with others, or they 19

20 dont take seriously the minor issues that separate them. 3. Lack of Good Communications: Too often we discover this lack after contention has erupted.1 Because communications problem lie at the core of many issues, leaders are to develop Unconditionally Excellent2 problem-solving skills. Because selfcenteredness or self interest is also another basic cause, only by living a covenantal life, continual modeling of humility will make leaders effective peacemakers. Literature Review on Causes of Conflict Not all conflict is bad. This is a statement that is often heard uttered by church leaders and conflict resolution experts. They say this with the understanding of the two types of conflict, where managers should stimulate functional conflict and prevent or resolve dysfunctional conflict.3 1 Alan M. Ross and Cecil Murphey, Unconditional Excellence: Answering Gods Call To Be Your Professional Best (Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 2002), 254-255. Ibid., 3. This begins when we make a choice to commit ourselves to becoming the very best in our workplace. It starts with a decision, then action. Ronald R. Sims, Managing Organizational Behavior, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2002), 246.3 2

21 The functional understanding of organizational conflict perceives conflict as a productive energy, one that can motivate members of the organization to increase their knowledge and skills, and their input to organizational innovation and productivity. Nelson and Quick defines it as a healthy, constructive disagreement between two or more people which can produce new ideas, learning, and growth among individuals, that can improve working relationships.1 Examples of positive conflicts, by contrast have the following characteristics: Problem-Solving Mentality, where everyone is at the table to solve the problem, not to fight with each other; Going for Mutual Satisfaction, all sides work for a solution; Everyone Syndrome, each side recognizes that the other side has legitimate concerns; and Just the Facts, where the discussion centers on the facts of the problem, not on the feelings of the people.2 The successful organization, then, needs 1 Debra L. Nelson and James Campbell Quick, Organizational Behavior: Foundations, Realities, and Challenges, 2nd ed. (New York: West Publishing Company, 1997), 378-379. Michael, W. Drafke and Stan Kossen, The Human Side of Organizations, 8th ed. (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002), 104.2

22 conflict so that diverging views can be put on the table, and new ways of doing things can be created. The dysfunctional understanding of organizational conflict is rooted in the idea that organizations are created to accomplish goals by making structures that perfectly define job responsibilities, authorities, and other job functions. This understanding of organizations and conflict causes problems because it is an unhealthy, destructive disagreement between two or more people which takes focus away from the work to be done and places the focus on the conflict itself and the parties involved.1 Negative conflicts have the following characteristics. The Feud Mentality, where conflict pits one group against another; Going for Broke, where each side wants it all, no compromise; Me Syndrome where antagonists see only their side of the house; and You Syndrome where the conflict is personalized and people are attacked as individuals.2

1 Nelson and Quick, 379.2

Drafke and Kossen, 104.

23 In the church, personal factors are probably the main causes of conflict. These personal factors are: skills and abilities, personalities, perceptions, values and ethics, emotions and communication barriers.1 Jim Murphy, a well-known speaker and management consultant, adds the following factors that also contribute to the difficulty in identifying the correct cause of conflict. They are, time, experience, faith, ego, poor training and oversensitivity.2 He elaborates further that behaviors cause conflict. The four different behaviors that cause conflict are: intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, and managerial.3 Leas and Kittlaus, in their book Church Fights, distinguish three kinds of conflicts. The first is Intrapersonal Conflict, second is Interpersonal Conflict, and the third is Substantive conflict.4 A particular conflict that arises may be a mixture of the above three. 1 Ibid., 382-383. Jim Murphy, Managing Conflict at Work (West Des Moines, IO: American Media Publishing, 1994), 30-31.3 4 2

Ibid., 36-40.

Speed Leas and Paul Kittlaus, Church Fights: Managing Conflict in the Local Church (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973), 29-32.

24 In the book Effective Human Relations in Organizations, Reece & Brandt lists the following causes of conflict: ineffective communication, value clashes, culture clashes, work policies and practices, adversarial management, noncompliance, and difficult people.1 While all factors may become a cause of conflict in the church, the last cause, difficult people, may be the number one cause, due to the nature of the church. They continue to describe the kinds of difficult people that exist in organizations2: The Tanks: Pushy and ruthless, loud and forceful, they assume that the end justifies the means. The Snipers: Identify your weaknesses and use them against you through sabotage behind your back or putdowns in front of the crowd. The Know-It-Alls: Will tell you what they know for hoursbut wont take a second to listen to your clearly inferior ideas. The Grenades: Whey they blow their tops, theyre unable to stop. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, the cycle begins again. The Yes Persons: They are quick to agree but slow to deliver, leaving a trail of unkept commitments and broken promises. The Maybe Persons: When faced with a crucial decision, they keep putting it off until its too late and the decision makes itself. 1 Barry L. Reece and Rhonda Brandt, Effective Human Relations in Organizations (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999), 333. Ibid., 334-335, taken from Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner, Dealing with People You Cant Stand, 1994.2

25 The No Persons: Doleful and discouraging, they say, What goes up must come down. And what comes down must never be able to get back up again. The Whiners: They wallow in their woe, whine incessantly, and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Gangel and Canine added additional perspectives. They identified confrontation, dogmatism, and efficiency breakdown as causes of conflict.1 On the other hand, McSwain and Treadwell, emphasizes on stress as the root of conflict. They describe stress as an intrapersonal conflict which forces individuals to choose from among a multitude of options in life how they shall live.2 The church sometimes creates stress because of unmet expectation and unfulfilled hopes, unrealistic demands, failure in management, and contradictions in the church with secular experiences.3 Greenberg and Baron agrees with McSwain and Treadwell when they discuss term as role conflict which usually is a stress from conflicting demands.4 1 Kenneth O. Gangel and Samuel L. Canine, Communication and Conflict Management: In Churches and Christian Organizations (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 180-184. Larry L. McSwain and William C. Treadwell, Jr., Conflict Ministry in the Church (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1981), 59.3 4 2

Ibid., 64-72. Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behaviors

26 Speed Leas complements to the previous arguments when he adds fear, needs, and sin as three shortcomings in people that cause church conflict.1 He continues in another article that there are ten most predictable times of conflict, it is during: Easter, stewardship campaigns/budget time, addition of new staff, change in leadership style, the pastors vacation, changes in the pastors family, introduction of baby boomers into the church, the completion of a new building, loss of church membership, and increase in church membership.2 A church leader should be aware of these activities and be on guard. Donald Palmer, looking from the perspective of missionary and Christian workers, describes four underlying causes of conflict. The first cause is when territory is threatened or disputed. This is when two parties want to occupy the same space, at the same time _____________________ in Organizations 4th ed. (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1993), 230. Speed Leas, Rooting Out Causes of Conflict in Leading Your Church Through Conflict and Reconciliation, ed. Marshall Shelley (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 104-106. Leas, The Ten Most Predictable Times of Conflict in Leading Your Church Through Conflict, 45-53.2 1

27 or when two parties propose different goals or solutions that cannot all be put in action at the same time. The second cause is when expectations are not fulfilled. This has been previously mentioned, expectations are sometimes not realistic or not clarified and the other party does not act according to the expectation of the other party. The third cause is faulty leadership and administration. This happens when there is an unclear relationship within the organizational structure, poorly defined job responsibilities, poor planning, breakdown of communication, leadership that is too autocratic or too weak, or overly political. The last is caused by attitudes and personalities clash. There are prejudices and biases which are reflected consciously and unconsciously, and there are differences in temperaments, personalities and styles.1 Dudley Weeks in his book The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution, reemphasizes needs as one of the ingredients of conflict. Diversity and 1 David C. Palmer, Managing Conflict Creatively: A Guide for Missionaries & Christian Workers (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1990), 7-11.

28 differences, Perceptions, Power, Values and Principles, Feelings and Emotions, are the remaining ingredients for conflict. It is obvious that Weeks present a much broader variety of causes of conflict compared to other authors. After looking at the various causes of conflict, we will then look at effective techniques in managing conflict. First we will look on techniques offered from the behavior science perspective, later on we will focus on biblical methods of conflict resolution. The next chapter will be the conclusion of this paper, while offering personal assessment regarding the subject of causes of conflict.


In the previous chapters, discussion on the various causes of conflict has been presented by looking at what various authors understanding of root of conflict. This chapter will now look at the various theories for managing conflict which can be used by the pastor or church leader in resolving conflicts in the church. We will begin by looking at several styles of managing conflict that is generally practiced by managers in corporations. The purpose of including them is for the benefit of familiarizing the reader. The styles will be categorized under two parts, the positive and negative strategy. Pondys Model of Organizational Conflict Before looking at the conflict styles, it is proper to understand one of the most widely accepted


30 models of organizational conflict developed by Louis R. Pondy.1 His model explains the stages of conflict: Stage1: Latent Conflict-potential Stage2: Perceived Conflict-realizes goals impeded by another party Stage3: Felt Conflict-growing anger Stage4: Manifest Conflict-how to deal with it Stage5: Conflict Aftermath-what would I do differently?2 The first stage of this model has no actual conflict. However there exist a potential for conflict to arise because of the factors that become sources of conflict. In stage two, perceived conflict begins when one party becomes aware that its goals are being thwarted by the actions of another party.3 Each party will search the origins of the conflict, find out why the conflict is emerging, then examines the event that leads to its occurrence.

1 Louis R. Pondy, Organizational Conflict: Concept and Models Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Sept. 1967), 296-320, 310 [journal online]; available from; accessed on 30 June 2010.2

George and Jones, Understanding and Managing,


Ibid., 661.

31 During the stage of felt conflict, the parties in conflict develop negative feelings about each other.1 The groups are described to close ranks, develops an usversus-them attitude, and blames the other group2 as the cause of the problem. At the manifest conflict stage, one party decides how to react to or deal with the party that it sees as the source of the conflict.3 Here both parties try to hurt each other and thwart each others goals. Finally the conflict aftermath stage, which is bound to happen sooner or later. In this stage conflict in an organization is resolved one way or anothersomeone gets fired.4 Popular Conflict Management Styles To take a closer look at the various strategies one can use in resolving workplace conflict, let us review the five different conflict management styles developed by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in

1 Ibid., 662.2 3 4

Ibid. Ibid., 663. Ibid., 665.

32 1974,1 and another later model developed by Ron Kraybill in 1990.2 The five styles of the Thomas Kilman (TKI) are competing or forcing, avoiding, compromising, collaborating, and accommodating. While the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory (KCSI) calls them Directing, Avoiding, Compromising, Cooperating, and Harmonizing. Both use a framework commonly credited to Mouton and Blake, which maps out responses to conflict according to the interaction of a horizontal and vertical axis. The one axis is for assertiveness or focus on ones own agenda, while the other axis is for cooperativeness or focus on the relationship. The major difference among the two lies in the cultural sensitivity of the models. While the TKI uses a forced choice questionnaire and assumes all users have similar cultural background, the KCSI uses a multiple

1 Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann, ThomasKilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Tuxedo NY: Xicom, 1974). Ron Kraybill, Style Matters: The Kraybill Conflict Style Instrument (Riverhouse ePress, 1990) in Mennonite Conciliation Service in Mediation and Facilitation Training Manual, 4th ed., (Akron, PA: MCS, 2000), 64-66.2

33 choice questionnaire and allows the user to identify whether they are from an individualistic or collectivistic society.1 The TKI assesses conflict management styles on two distinct levels: assertiveness and cooperativeness. Since the KCSI is relatively new and contain similar characteristics with TKI, we are just going look at the five conflict management styles of TKI. They are as follows:2 Avoiding Style This is when you do not satisfy your concerns or the concerns of the other person. This style is low assertiveness and low cooperativeness. The goal is to delay, to take no action on a conflict or to stay out of a conflict situation. Overuse of this style results in negative evaluations from others in the workplace.

1 Thomas Kilmann and Style Matters Compared [online]; available from om_content&view=article&id=64&Itemid=95; accessed on 30 June 2010. The following descriptions of the TKI Styles are taken from Reece and Brandt, Effective Human Relations, 342-343.2

34 However, this style can be used when an issue is of low importance, to reduce tensions, or to buy time. Avoidance is also appropriate when you are in a low power position and have little control over the situation, when you need to allow others to deal with the conflict, or when the problem is symptomatic of a much larger issue and you need to work on the core issue, trivial, or more important issues are pressing; when potential disruption outweighs the benefits of resolutions; and when you think others can resolve the conflict more effectively. Competing Style A style that is very assertive and uncooperative. Both parties always want to satisfy personal interests and are willing to do so at the expense of the other party. This is similar to the win/lose strategy. This style is best used when quick decisive actions are vital; on important issues where unpopular actions need implementing; and against people who take advantage of non-competitive behavior.

35 Compromising Style This style is intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness, because each party must give up something to reach a solution to the conflict. This could be used when goals are important, but not worth the effort or potential disruption or more assertive modes; when opponents with equal power are committed to mutually exclusive goals; and as a backup when collaboration or competition is unsuccessful. Collaboration Style High on assertiveness and cooperativeness and works toward collaborating that involves an open and thorough discussion of the conflict and arriving at a solution that is satisfactory to both parties. Designed to help the conflicting parties work together to find mutually advantageous solutions to problems so that each person is satisfied with the outcome. There are particular situations when it is best to use this strategy. First is when it is vital to find an integrative solution when both sets of concerns are too important to be compromised. Second is when your objective is to learn and to merge insights from people with different perspectives. Third is to gain commitment

36 by incorporating concerns into a consensus. And finally to work through feelings that have interfered with a relationship. This strategy has been given a lift in the secular field of conflict resolution by Fisher and Ury.1 Accommodating Style Accommodating strategy is a style in which a party is concerned about the other partys goals to be met, but relatively unconcerned with getting your way. This strategy is cooperative but unassertive. It is more important for both parties to maintain harmony and keep relationships intact. This strategy is to be used when you find you are wrong, when issues are more important to others than to yourself, when you want to build social credits for later issues, when you want to minimize loss when you are outmatched and losing, when harmony and stability are especially important, and when you want to allow employees to develop by learning from mistakes. There is always an appropriate moment to use the following styles. Research done among managers regarding 1 Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In 2nd ed., (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).

37 the use of the five strategies shows that managers, have the capacity to change styles as the situation demands.1 The study also shows that managers who used a combination of competing and avoiding styles were seen as ineffective by the engineers who worked under their project teams.2 Negative Strategies Let us now look at some common strategies that result in the increase of ugly conflict. Below are strategies described by Bacal, a prolific author, consultant, book author, trainer, and public speaker: Ugly #1: Nonaction. The most common repressive management strategy is nonactiondoing nothing. Most of the time, people do nothing about conflict situations for other reasons, such as fear of bringing conflict into view, or discomfort with anger. Unfortunately, doing nothing generally results in conflict escalating, and sets a tone for the organization..."we don't have conflict here". Ugly #2: Administrative Orbiting. Administrative orbiting means keeping appeals for change or redress always under consideration, orbiting acknowledges the problem, but avoids dealing with it. The manager who uses orbiting will say things like We are dealing with the problem, but the problem never gets addressed. Common stalls include: collecting more data, documenting performance, cancelling meetings, etc. Ugly #3: Secrecy. A common means of avoiding conflict (or repressing it) is to be secretive. This 1 Nelson and Quick, 398.2


38 can be done by employees and managers. The notion is that if nobody knows what you are doing, there can be little conflict. If you think about this for a moment, you will realize its absurdity. By being secretive you may delay conflict and confrontation, but when it does surface it will have far more negative emotions attached to it than would have been the case if things were more open. Ugly #4: Law and Order. The final "ugly strategy". Normally this strategy is used by managers who mistakenly think that they can order people to not be in conflict. Using regulations, and power, the person using the approach "leans on" people to repress the outward manifestations of conflict.1 Win/Lose Strategy This strategy is only one winner solution,

domination whereby there is a victory of one side over the other. As an often overused strategy for solving conflicts, these methods include the use of mental or physical power to bring about compliance.Sometimes, this approach is done through socially acceptable mechanisms such as majority vote, the authority of the leader, or the determination of a judge. However, in many occasions, it involves secret strategies, threat, innuendo whatever works is acceptable, for example: the ends justify the means. 1 Robert Bacal, Organizational Conflict - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly [online]; available from ct.htm; accessed on 22 June 2010.

39 There is often a strong we-they distinction accompanied by the classic symptoms of intergroup conflict. The valued outcome is to have a victor who is superior, and a vanquished who withdraws in shame, but who prepares very carefully for the next round. In the long run, everyone loses.1 Reece and Brandt suggest that this strategy, even on the negative method, to be used in situations where two factions simply cannot agree on any solution or may not even be able to talk to each other.2 Lose/Lose strategy The lose-lose strategy is exemplified by smoothing over conflict or by reaching the simplest of compromises. This strategy can basically be applied in three ways.3 First, both parties involved can be asked to compromise. Each party should give-in to the other and 1 Ron Fisher, Sources of Conflict and Methods of Conflict Resolution School of International Service, The American University, 1977, Rev. 1985, 2000, 4 [journal online]; available from ethodsofResolution.pdf; accessed on 29 June 2010.2 3

Reece and Brandt, 336. Ibid., 337.

40 judge to what degree of compromise is acceptable for both. Second, an arbitrator, usually a neutral third party, is called in to decide how the conflict should be resolved. Normally arbitration process may take from both sides as much as it gives in an effort to reach a final settlement. Finally, the third way is by going through the rules. The disadvantage of this application is that it leaves out the particulars of both parties. Each party gets some of what it wants, and resigns itself to partial satisfaction. Neither side is aware that by confronting the conflict fully and cooperatively they might have created a more satisfying solution.1 Positive Strategies First of all we have to understand that there are two levels of conflict, individual level and group level. Sometimes a conflict may arise because of an individual level conflict which escalated to a group level conflict. In resolving individual level conflict, it is suggested by Nielsen to use techniques designed to 1 Fisher, 5.

41 change the attitudes or behavior of those involved in the conflict.1 If the conflict is on the group level, techniques in changing attitudes or behavior of groups and departments in conflict should be used.2 Win/Win Strategy The win-win approach is a conscious and systematic attempt to maximize the goals of both parties through collaborative problem solving. The conflict is seen as a problem to be solved rather than a war to be won. The important distinction is we (both parties) versus the problem, rather than we (one party) versus they (the other party). This method focuses on the needs and constraints of both parties rather than emphasizing strategies designed to conquer. Full problem definition and analysis and development of alternatives precedes consensus decisions on mutually agreeable solutions. The parties work toward common and superordinate goals, i.e., ones that can only be attained by both parties pulling together. There is an emphasis on the quality of the long 1 Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. Jones, Understading Organizational Behavior, 2nd ed. (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1999), 667.2


42 term relationships between the parties, rather than short term accommodations. Steps in Conflict Management Process The organization, when faced with conflict, will eventually respond to the conflict. There are two models of response in managing a conflict. The first model is the Five As and the second one is the March and Simon Steps. Victor and Borisoff 5 Steps Victor and Borisoff1 identified five steps in the conflict management process, which they call five As: assessment, acknowledgement, attitude, action, and analysis. They emphasize that these five steps allow for a continual process of problem-solving conflict management. The first step is assessment step. In these step the parties gather appropriate information regarding the problem. They select which of the conflict-handling modes 1 Deborah Borisoff and David A. Victor, Conflict Management: A Communication Skills Approach (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989). This section draws heavily from the article by David A. Victor, Conflict Management Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd Ed., [online]; available from; accessed on 30 June 2010.

43 would be most appropriate for the situation and determine what is and is not at the heart of the problem, what they might be willing to compromise on, and what each party actually wants. The second step, acknowledgement step is one in which each party attempts to hear out the other. Acknowledgement allows both parties to build the empathy needed for the motivation of a synergistic solution to the problem. The attitude step, the third step, attempts to eliminate sources of pseudoconflict. Prejudices regarding cultural differences or gender-linked communication styles are recognized. Differences in communication styles (written, nonverbal, or verbal) are examined in the attempt to remain objective to both parties' concerns simultaneously. Action step, the fourth step, is the carrying out of the conflict-handling mode which was selected. If that is the problem-solving mode, one communicates the possibilities for a solution while building trust and continually soliciting feedback on positions reached. At the same time, one must read cues in the other party to anticipate concerns while remaining conscious of one's

44 own communicative behavior and seeking productive solutions. Finally, in the analysis step, decisions are reached, summarized, and then reviewed to establish that the needs of all parties have been met (if possible). Additionally, the analysis step sets the process side of conflict management into motion as something that is ongoing by attempting to anticipate and check for shortterm and long-term effects from the solution reached. Reece and Brandt also offers a similar five step process in order to go through conflict resolution: (1) decide whether you have a misunderstanding or a true disagreement; (2) define the problem and collect the facts; (3) clarify perceptions; (4) generate options for mutual gain; and (5) implement options with integrity.1 March and Simons Four Process In 1958, March and Simon published a book where they described four basic process on how an organization responds to a conflict.2

1 Reece and Brandt, 344-347. J. March and H. Simon, Organization (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1958).2

45 The first is problem solving. Because problem solving assumes that objectives are shared, problem arises with the difficulty of identifying a solution that will meet the criteria in which all participants agree.1 The next one is quite different than the first. Persuasion assumes that individual or group goals may differ, where objectives are ultimately shared at some level. However, this process is constructive in the sense that it attempts to secure true agreement among participants.2 The third and fourth processes are bargaining and politics. Both of these processes seek to secure

only a tactic resolution of the conflict. While bargaining takes disagreement over goals as given and unalterable3 politics however goes one step further where the bargaining area is expanded.

1 Organ and Bateman, 506-507.2 3

Ibid. Ibid.


Examples of Conflict in the Bible After looking at the various styles, strategies and steps in conflict resolution. We will now look at the Biblical references1 and principles of conflict management. In the Old Testament we see situations of conflict. For example Genesis 13:6-7 tells the story of how a conflict situation arose among Abraham and Lots herdsmen and Genesis 31 records the conflict between Laban and Jacob. 2 Samuel 14:1-15:37 narrates King Davids mismanagement of his conflict with his son Absalom. The Greek word for conflict is agon which bears the meaning contest, fight. There are several NT passages that use this word. The first two verses is Philippians 1:30 and Colossians 2:1 have the meaning fight. While 1 Thessalonians 2:2 conveys the meaning contention and athlesis which literally means, combat in the public games. Finally in Hebrews 10:32 carries the meaning fight.2 1 For further study on conflict situations in the Bible, see Palmer, Managing Conflict Creatively, 40-57. James Orr, General Editor, Definition for CONFLICT International Standard Bible Encyclopedia2

47 The New Testament records conflicting situations of Jesus disciples encounter with Pharisees in Matthew 9:34 and Luke 22:24. Also of Paul and Barnabas differences regarding the qualifications of John Mark (Acts 15:38-39). While the Bible contains many more passages that depict conflicting situations and conflict resolution,1 there are however important principles that can be used for conflict resolution. As Job 5:7 shares, People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire. When this happens automatically conflict will spark up like fire. The Matthew 18:15 method is a simple method, but requires the person practicing this to have the following prerequisites: Humility. This is so important because we have to look to ourselves and to our own weaknesses and feelings to keep things in proper perspective. We need humility to keep from exalting ourselves or arguing from the vantage point of supposed superiority. Keep in mind Galatians 6:1

_____________________ 1915 [online]; available from; accessed on 30 June 2010. See Prv 20:31; Ps 51:17; Isa 6:1-8; Matt 18:1518; Rom 14:19, 1 Cor 14:33; 2 Cor 13:11; 1 Thes 5:13; 12:18; Eph 4:1-3; Jn 4:24, 13:25;1

48 Love. If you don't love the person you don't have a right to confront them. If you don't have love for the person you confront you won't have the attitude of desiring God's best for him or her. Keep in mind Romans 15:1-2. Patience. We need patience in order to have proper self-restraint and we need patience to hear the other person out. Impatience is a source of anger and intoleranceand it has no place in conflict resolution. To be without hypocrisy. If we are living a deluded lifestyle, contrary to God's purposes for our lives, we can't see clearly enough to qualify for correcting other people. If we want to confront somebody about an area of sin (or even of non-moral issues) we must first have demonstrated victory in this area ourselves.1 It is fitting to close this study by presenting what Rush summarized as the proper way to end conflicts. 1. A conflict provides excellent opportunity to serve others. 2. Be committed to resolving the conflict quickly. 3. Take initiative in confronting those involved. 4. Even though hostility and anger are present in conflict, avoid angry arguments.2

1 Biblical Conflict Resolution [n.d.] [online]; available from s/conflict1.html; accessed on 30 June 2010. Myron Rush, Management: A Biblical Approach (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2003), 206.2

49 and also to remember the principles Sande proposes in his book, The Peacemaker: Glorify God, get the log out of your eye, gently restore, go and be reconciled and finally keep in mind that we are to forgive as God forgave you.1

1 Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004).


While conflict can have its positive effects in the church, most of the time it exhibits the negative effects. It would be ideal for a church to have no conflict at all. But alas, this will never be the case. A state of utopia1 can only be achieved when we all get to heaven.2 Ironically, heaven is where the first conflict started, when Lucifer drooled: I will ascend . . . I will raise my . . . I will sit enthroned . . . I will ascend . . . I will make myself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14). The use of I statements is one of the causes of conflict inside the church.

1 Utopia is a name for an ideal community or society, coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6 502

51 When we look at the statistics given in chapter three, it is evident that the level of congregational conflict is the same today and in 1998. And what is more interesting is todays level of congregational conflict is the same as it was in colonial times! According to Emory University historian E. Brooks Holifield, between 1680 and 1740, 122 of 400 (28 percent) of Congregationalist and Presbyterian ministers in New England and on Long Island had serious trouble with their congregations: 48 had financial disputes, thirty two became embroiled in conflict over division of a parish... twenty fought theologically with members, and the rest had personality conflicts.1 Because of the ensuing problems, 32 ministers had to leave the church. Personal Analysis Ultimately, looking from the perspective of human relations, the main cause of conflicts lies in the area of communication. Lack of communication effects relationships. Since humans rely on the ability to express themselves through the means of communication, 1 E. Brooks Holifield, Gods Ambassadors: A History of Christian Clergy in America (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 87.

52 when this is distorted a negative reaction will be the outcome. For that reason, as leaders in the church we should be able to maintain proper communication inside the church. As pastors and leaders, we are expected to play a role in preventing conflict within the church in the personal and interpersonal levels. We cannot escape the fact that conflict is bound to happen, however if leaders can downplay the causes of conflict, then a small disagreement can be kept from becoming a conflict. I would like to propose a positive intervention method by Peter Roy, in James Autrys book The Servant Leader. A simple technique he calls affirmations, is a method to end a meeting that had been contentious and held the possibility of later conflict. Before adjourning the meeting, he [Peter] would ask his executives to go around the room and affirm one another.1 This can be done in Church Board meetings and other forms of meetings that happen in a church setting. By communicating the affirmation of each other eliminates any hard-feelings accumulated during the meeting. 1 James A. Autry, The Servant Leader (Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2001), 174.

53 Another method to help prevent conflicts in our church is to have pluralism as a trait. What is pluralism? Pluralism, according to Suzan and Thomas Kuczmarski is having an openness and nonjudgmental view toward the differences in individuals.1 It basically means that a leader believes in equality for human beings. It requires a leader not to be discriminative or to label people according to their beliefs, attributes, or externally perceived common characteristics. Do not judge someone based on attributes they cannot change such as gender, age, skin color, or sexual orientation, nor religious affiliation or ethnic rituals.2 In the church setting, being able to identify a potential conflict is a skill that should be developed. Pastors and church administrators should possess the said skills. Even when conflicts are bound to happen, the proper way in handling it will spell a difference between having positive or negative results.

1 Susan Smith Kuczmarski and Thomas D. Kuczmarski, Values-Based Leadership: Rebuilding Employee Commitment, Performance, & Productivity (Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), 255.2

Ibid., 256.



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