Congregational Conflict transformation

linked hands.jpg

As you know, I sometimes offer here a list or bibliography I developed for a particular customer.  I suspect that my new friend who asked about these kinds of books is not alone: who doesn’t need help in understanding the conflicts around us, the tensions in our churches?   There are many good books to help congregations work on this stuff, and we stand ready to consult further if none of these sound quite right. I’d bet, though, that some of these titles could offer insight and hope.  Pass the list on, if you’d like.  Thanks.

Worlds Within a Congregations: Dealing
With Theological Diversity
  W. Paul Jones (Abingdon) $20  I
don’t think this is needed for everyone, but most congregations–especially
mainline churches—have large issues of differing viewpoints on how we live out
our faith, and our deepest convictions.  These theological worldviews are
examined here, and he holds up the case for theological diversity, being
inclusive and inviting.  I think it is pretty important and a good example of
gracious theology in local settings.

More Light, Less Heat:
How Dialogue Can Transform Christian Conflicts into Growth
Phelps (Jossey-Bass) $20  This is a fabulous resource, not superficial, with
particular insight about these principles of “dialogue” as a method for
discussing fundamental disagreements in open, constructive and mutually
respectful ways.  Excellent.

FireStorm: Preventing and Overcoming
Church Conflicts
  Ron Susek (Baker) $14.99  Ron is an experienced
and well-traveled evangelist and knows conservative evangelical churches well. 
This is a solid, realistic and Biblical study that is very honest, and very
Never Call Them Jerks: Healthy
Responses to Difficult Behavior
Arthur Paul Boers (Alban) $14.95 
This little book illustrates the deep (Mennonite) maturity of this good writer. 
It is for a pastor, offering redemptive insights from complicated situations or
unpleasant antagonists.  Excellent.
How to Treat a Staff Infection:
Resolving Problems in Your Church or Ministry Team
  Dr. Craig
& Carolyn Williford (Baker) $14.99 This new book is top notch, especially
useful for organizations, ministries or churches whose staff have ailments. 
Very practical, with a light touch.
Challenging the Church Monster: From
Conflict to Community
  Douglas Bixby (Pilgrim) $16  Concise and
practical and thoughtful, Bixby invites churches to reflect on how they’re
organized and why.  He looks at “downsizing and centralizing church government”
and “developing a radical commitment to congregational decision-making.”  This
means, he argues, fewer meetings, more ministry, and less conflict.
Making Peace With Conflict: Practical
Skills for Conflict Transformation
  edited by Carolyn
Schrock-Shenk & Lawrence Ressler  (Herald Press) $14.99  This is a fabulous
anthology, a collection by many experts in this field, offering ways to
understand and transform conflict based on cooperation, nonviolent and
peacemaking.  Good study questions, 17 chapters, covering important matters such
as power configurations, gender issues, cultural differences, creating listening
skills, learning to forgive, analyzing problem solving styles, applying this in
arenas of family, church, even a few about international conflict.  Really
Conflict Management in
  David Lott, editor  (Alban) $18  This is
an anthology of 20 classic works on congregational conflict, in one volume. 
Speed Leas, a well-known consultant an author in this field, write in the
forward that these are all from field researchers, each with certain areas of
expertise and experience.  Covers all kind of topics, including a few on
ethnicity and various “styles” of conflict.

Church Conflict: The Hidden Systems Behind the Fights  Charles Cosgrove & Dennis Hatfield (Abingdon) $16  This makes a major contribution in the way it uses family systems thinking in congregational conflict studies.  (There are several classic books about family systems in church life if your not aware—Peter Stienke’s work comes to mind.) 

Hope in Conflict: Discovering Wisdom in Congregational Turmoil David R. Sawyer (Pilgrim Press) $20 This is a wonderfully-written book, with great case studies, deep insight, spiritual reflections and a bit family systems insights.  The author introduces various models for conflict management and offers a hopeful hypothesis as the way to seek positive health and stay humble in the midst of painful conflict and institutional dysfunction.  Nicely done.

Healthy Disclosure: Solving
Communications Quandaries in Congregations
  Kibbie Simmons Ruth
& Karen McClintock (Alban) $18  This just came out, and seems to
be very helpful, packed with commonsense and down-to-Earth insights offering
steps for handling different types of sensitive communication concerns.  (Is
there a difference between privacy and secrecy?)  It is actually a volume to
help clergy learn how to most appropriately handle information.
Welcoming Resistance 
William Chris Hobgood (Alban) $17  Not exactly about conflict
resolution, but about how to respond when encountering resistance to proposals
for change.   He offers typical (and unproductive) styles of responding to
resistance, and develops his faithful alternative.  Interesting.

The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering our Ambitions to the Service of Christ  Andrew Purves  (IVP) $15 Although this new book isn’t exactly about conflict, it is about the visions we have of doing ministry, what it means to be broken by God and filled with the humble spirit of servanthood, to offer our understandings of success up to the Lord.  This is a book for pastors or laypeople, for anyone interested in ministry or Christian leadership.  Very thoughtfully done by a very well-respected Presbyterian seminary professor and mentor. Highly recommended.

Hearts & Minds  234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313     717.246.3333