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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

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What To Do When The Conflict Consultant Comes
by Barbara Schmitz, Editor
Conflict Communiqué, Vol. 2, No. 1

Let's suppose that the judicatory or conflict consultants have been called to quell the trouble in your church. As the pastor, you may well be at the center of the storm. What can you do to improve the possibilities of having a good outcome? Here's a short list of "to do's (and to don'ts):"
1. Be on time for appointments with the consultant; return phone calls promptly. Have any materials that the consultants requested ready and on good, clean copy (*don't overdo it, but don't be sloppy here). Be a goo host. Have coffee ready. Be hospitable.
2. Don't be defensive. Listen carefully. Don't interrupt. (There's a good change your parishioners have already complained, or will shortly, about all three). Listen first, then reflect feelings, you know, all that stuff you learned in CPE...."Hmmm, I can see how Jim would be upset....hmmm"
3. Don't unload on the consultants. Rather, get a colleague/coach who can help you process the emotions you are gong through. The consultants are not your confessors. They are people who may or may not be very good at what they do. Dump your anxiety elsewhere, and in Friedman's words, be a non-=anxious presence to your consultants. For more on engaging a coach/confessor, see Ken Haugks' book, Antagonists in the Church.
4. Don't get angry; don't swear; don't make any threats; don't throw books on the floor; don't do anything that isn't your very best behavior. Reason: it will only substantiate what your parishioners probably said/will say about you. Don't give the consultants any reason to believe the you are anything but a gentle and kind, competent clergy person (of course, if you aren't, that's another matter...).

5. Avoid getting into detail about specific complaints against you; focus instead on patterns...."Yes, Mrs. Smith has a pattern of withdrawing from church and threatening to lower her pledge..." Avoid loaded language such as "Yes, Mrs. Smith is crazy and blackmails the church with her $10 a week pledge!" Express the latter to your coach/confessor!

6. The bottom line: You want to help the consultants to not focus on your behavior, and to focus instead on the recurring, destructive patterns of behavior (e.g. gossip, withdrawal, criticism, etc.).

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:27 PM