The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Talk together

How congregations can face conflict and grow closer

It’s an all-too-familiar story: Conflict erupts in a congregation. Then members try to work through the situation, sometimes with the help of mediators. Usually they reach a resolution.

But in the process, valuable ministries can be set aside or let go to make time to deal with the conflict. Some members depart for other congregations. Others stop attending. The pastor may leave the congregation and, sometimes, the ministry. People who have experienced conflict may feel that church—and their faith—will never be the same.

Conflict happens when we express differences. We each have unique life experiences and opportunities. We create distinctive stories to make sense of how we live and express our faith. When we tell these stories and our differences appear, conflict happens. It’s inevitable and normal. It can be healthy and valuable.

It’s valuable because conflict provides an opportunity for dialogue. When the talk is healthy, it can help us better understand one another and expand our perspective. We can clarify boundaries and create systems that will help us function more effectively. In this way, conflict can support our congregations in moving forward.

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February issue


Embracing diversity