Conflict Transformation and Nonviolence

Church Leadership Development

Andover Boys Crew Team courtesy photographer Rouge, Wikimedia Commons

The leaders of a church set its vision and path forward.  Imagine an organization as being like a rowing team.  If the members are functioning well as a team, the crew will be rowing in unison, pulling for a common goal, each cognizant of what the others are doing and supporting one another.  If the team is not functioning well, it might be like each person putting the oar in the water at his or her own pace, at different times, and even in different directions, perhaps even seeking to row the boat toward different goals and working against one another to pull the boat in competing directions.  Both boats have people.  In both boats, the people are working hard.  In both boats, the people have good intentions.  But only one boat will be rowed effectively and meet the determined target.  By helping your organization become unified and function well as a team, we aim to help the boat of your organization look more like the Olympic class team and less like a boat needing rescue.

Perhaps your team just needs a bit of coaching, or perhaps your team needs a lot of help.  Regardless, the resources of Just Mediation are here to help you.  Services offered range from one hour, lunch time meetings to weekend retreats, to keynote speeches, meeting facilitation, or full scale congregational mediation.  Your needs are what determines what services will be offered.  Our mediators are trained as Healthy Congregations facilitators and as mediators for church conflict using Biblical principles of conflict transformation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  We know this is counterintuitive.  The radical nature of Biblical conflict transformation is a matter of acting in faith and in trusting the Holy Spirit.  We can walk that path with you.

Although conflict in organizations can be complex due to the many different competing interests and agendas, general principles of conflict still apply.   Increases in conflict occur in identifiable stages.  Remedies and approaches vary according to stage.

  • At its lowest and healthy level, conflict is experienced as an enriching and lively interaction among friendly folk that helps them all see and more clearly focus on common, agreed goals.  When an organization is at this level, our trainers are happy to lead classes, such as half day or weekend officer training events, designed to help the organization be more aware of and competent in key strategies for building and maintaining health in your organization.  We also lead meetings or teach techniques for leading meetings which help ensure that meetings are productive and all voices are heard, reducing the frustrations in an organization which can lead to unresolved conflict.
  • At higher slightly higher levels of conflict, there may be more anxiety and some outside assistance might be needed.  In cases involving moderate conflict, we are available as meeting facilitators to ensure that all views are heard in a neutral, safe environment.  We design decision processes with mechanisms to ensure that key needs and interests of all parties are heard and considered.
  • At higher levels of conflict, we may recommend full scale, organizational mediation.   Mediation is the appropriate remedy when an organization is so divided that it is facing a split of membership, or if ouster of key leaders is imminent.

Because no organization is exactly alike, our specific proposal on how to approach a conflict-prone situation in an organization will depend heavily on the specific assessment of needs in your particular case.  Whether it is coaching, training, meeting facilitation, or mediation, we have many tools in the tool chest.  Each of the mediators of Just Mediation, LLD, are committed and mature Christians who are also trained conflict professionals, equipped to analyse and respond sensitively, confidentially, and responsibly in ways that will help your church or organization stay or return to a healthy way of relating as individuals and as a team.  (For our credentials, click HERE.)

To arrange for a personal consultation in your situation, call  803-414-0185, or fill out the contact form below.

Mediation of Church and Organizational Conflict

The mediators of Just Mediation are all skilled and experienced mediators who, in addition to community and family mediation training, have also trained at the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center  in mediation of church conflict.  All of us view our work as furtherance of our vocational calling as peacemakers.   Our passion is to strengthen your church or business organization, by helping you work as a better team, so that you will be more effective in your mission.

While one goal of mediation is to help restore agreement within a congregation, we also seek to transform the narrative experience of conflict and to achieve a healthier and happier outcome than can be achieved either by ignoring the conflict or by letting it escalate.  We seek to help parties to reach genuine agreement, heal relationships, and learn to build healthier systems for personal and organizational relationships.   We are also able to offer leadership training, facilitation of meetings, and coaching in management of conflict, so that disagreements or conflict can be handled in ways that are tough on issues yet easy on relationships.

To discuss more, please call 803-414-0185 or fill out the contact form here.  If you are interested in learning more about spiritual principles of conflict and reconciliation, there is significantly more published on this web site, which can be accessed by way of pull down menus or clicking on tags.

Negotiation of Prenuptial Agreements

Healthy conflict resolution is crucial to a happy marriage.  Negotiation of a prenuptial agreement (also called antenuptial agreement or sometimes just a prenup) provides opportunity for couples not only to decide some substantive issues, but also to discuss how they will resolve conflict when it occurs.  By having candid conversations about things that may cause conflict, as well as establishing ground rules for fighting fair, marriages can be strengthened by the inquiry and discussion that goes into the prenup negotiation process.

A prenuptial agreement will cover specific things.   Many people have the mistaken impression that a prenuptial agreement is just a way for one spouse to limit the rights of another in the event of divorce.  This is a very limited view.  Especially when second or later marriages are concerned, a prenup can protect both parties.  For instance, if a person is about to marry another person who may have exposure to some liability, the parties can agree on measures to protect the innocent spouse from potential liability.  By protecting one party, such an agreement in fact provides a measure of financial safety for both.

On a more personal level, a mediator can assist a young couple in learning to fight fair and in establishing methods for dealing with conflict in advance of need.  Mediator and attorney Ken Cloke asks, for example:

  • If you were to write a ‘Marital Constitution,’ what would you want to include?
  • What would the Preamble say?
  • The Bill of Rights?
  • How would you like to make decisions regarding different issues?
  • What will you want to do or say, and not do or say when you find yourselves in conflict?”

Mediation is an excellent forum for discussion of both substantive issues as well as general conflict resolution issues.  Mediators are trained in processes and techniques for resolving conflict.  These can be applied pro-actively as ground rules for fighting fair.  A foundation of fighting fair then strengthens and contributes to the health of the marriage.  Thus, mediation of a prenuptial agreement doesn’t just help the couple agree on property division.  It inoculates couples against  harmful conflict.

If you are getting married, consider mediation of a prenup.   No one is harmed by having one, and it may do a world of good by stopping trouble before it ever gets a chance to start.  To discuss this more, please call 803-414-0185, email me, or use the contact form.


While I’m pleased that many people read different meanings into it, the logo of Just Mediation, LLC, was intended to represent two parties and the mediator joined together in three attached rings, and being drawn through the rigid structure in the background.  


iPhone 803

If you are worried about conflict that may occur during family gatherings such as family reunions, weddings, and holiday dinners, this post may provide some helpful tips on how to reduce or avoid conflict, and how to deal with it when it happens

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What Is A Mediator?

The purpose of this post is to answer the question, “What is a mediator?”  A mediator is a trusted, neutral person who facilitates a process designed to empower parties to recognize find their own, satisfactory solutions to intractable conflict. Each word in the sentence above has important meaning.

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The Link Between Forgiveness and Peace

It is said that holding a grudge is like eating poison and then expecting the other person to die.  As we all know from experience, it’s very easy to hold grudges.  Yet, we know there are very damaging consequences to our entire being when we fail to forgive.  There are mental consequences, emotional consequences, and physical consequences.  Conversely, perhaps the opposite is also true.  The spiritual journey to forgiveness is steep and rocky and challenging.  Yet, when we reach the summit of the path to forgiveness, the view is spectacular.  This blog post is about the journey. Read More

Conflict Transformation As A Spiritual Practice

Jesus had a remarkable gift for seeing through everything superficial, for peeling back the layers of the dusty, superficial robes of identity we wear,  to peer into a person’s inner soul.   Whether speaking to a Roman Centurian, to a Samaritan adulteress, or to a distinguished Rabbi,  Jesus always seemed to see beyond title or position and to respond to the deeper thoughts and real need of the individual he was relating to.

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What Does a Mediator Do?

I help families manage transitions (divorce, elder planning, adoptions, custody issues, etc.) in ways that are intended to reduce conflict and build consensus.  Mediation is a new paradigm for conflict resolution, and I encourage you to learn more.

You do not need to already be in agreement to use a mediator!  It is my job to help you reach authentic agreement – peacefully, respectfully, and confidentially.

While I cannot guarantee a particular result in a particular case,  I sincerely believe most clients find that non-adversarial processes result in less stress, better long term relationships, more understanding,  hopefully truly better results, and (as a side effect) lower cost.

Feel free to ask any questions (or to request an appointment) by calling 803-414-0185 during business hours, or by filling out the form below.

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Intervention in Church Conflict

Every organization has conflict.  The big question is, how will you handle it?  Will be conflict be channeled constructively, to respond to changes and improve communication and relationships, or will conflict degenerate into toxic and fractured relationships and power struggles within the organization?    When churches consider the cost of intervention, they should measure this against the cost of not intervening.  Early intervention may prevent fractured relationships and divided congregations.

This web site is the home page of a team of Christian Peacemakers who use our  gifts in communication, and our skills as professional mediators, to help strengthen churches.  We conduct trainings in healthy conflict management for church leaders, and we also actively intervene as consultants and mediators in conflicted church situations.   Our aim is to restore the health of your church, so that swords will be put away and pounded into plowshares, so that your church body can return to its true calling, which is to plow the soil of building God’s kingdom.   If you’d like to learn more about healthy conflict resolution for congregations, please continue browsing through numerous articles in this web site, and also fill out the form on this page.

Conflict at its lowest levels on engagement, if managed well, is actually a way to keep the church healthy.  Just as a whet stone rubbing against a knife can sharpen the knife, the rubbing of conflicting interests in a church provides many opportunities for the church members to be in communication and debate, and to sharpen and clarify the mission and focus of the congregation.  Conflict enables us to communicate, to discuss differences and similarities, to really listen to and hear each other, and to forge solutions which meet the needs of the congregation without harming each other and which actually lead to healing and reconciliation.  The goal of good conflict management is not simply to achieve a level of comfort by putting a lid on conflict and pretending it doesn’t exist!   Rather, the goal is for conflict to result in improved communication, airing of interests, and good decisions that account for the needs of all.  Thus,   conflict transformation enables the church body to transform friction into an opportunity for increased understanding, growth, and healing.

Is this realistic, you ask?  In one word: yes!  If conflict is dealt with appropriately.  Conflict in a church is like a flame.  It can feel like a nice, warm campfire —  nicely contained in the fireplace and providing enough heat to fuel the popcorn popper — or it can feel like a house fire raging and destroying the entire structure.  Obviously, it is easier to tend the fire when it has not blazed out of control.

Where is your church conflict on the scale of conflict?  An article on this web site HERE may help you discern this.  At low levels, training for church leaders in healthy conflict management acts like a vaccination against toxic conflict.  Increasingly more hostile conflict requires different strategies.  Ignoring a problem (or waiting until the “other faction” leaves the church) doesn’t make the problem go away, however.   Rather, it is a failure of ministry, a failure to bear witness to the transformative power of God’s word and promises.  How many “unchurched” people, or those who label themselves as “spiritual but not religious” have actually left the church on account of poorly managed conflict?  One can guess, a lot.   A statistic by the Alban Institute indicates that a significant number of  unchurched  people in the USA say they are Christian, but they report that they no longer attend church because of some “painful event”.

The goal of Just Mediation is to stop that from happening!  We are concerned for the entire flock.   When a congregation contacts Just Mediation, a team of committed Believers who are experts in conflict transformation will be assembled to evaluate your particular congregational need and make a recommendation.  Our goal is to contribute to the health of the Body of Christ, by acting as professional peacemakers to help transform conflict from painful event to an opportunity for growth and learning among Believers.  Regardless of what level of conflict your congregation may be experiencing, the professional peacemakers of Just Mediation want to help you.  There are three main ways we can help:

1. Training and Education of Congregation and Congregational Leaders in Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills

Training and education of members and leaders in healthy methods of decision making and conflict resolution imparts helpful skill in tending the campfire.  If the fire is not already out of control, all it needs is to be cared for properly.

It is important that conflict associated with normal and natural transitions be addressed in ways that are healthy and healing, and not in ways that create more divides. When serious conflict does emerge, leaders need tools to respond to these challenges before they escalate into conflict that engages the entire community.  The mediators of Just Mediation, LLC, offer training in healthy, Biblical responses to conflict through on-site consultation, workshops, and leadership retreats.

We are happy to speak to your group and lead a workshop, whether for an hour or a weekend.  Training church members and leaders in conflict transformation skills can be viewed as akin to giving an innoculation to prevent illness from setting in.

2. Assessment and Recommendations in  Situations Involving Conflict

Ideally, conflict in faith-based organizations will be identified and addressed before it reaches a flashpoint of causing a crisis.  However, it can be helpful to have a fire extinguisher on hand.

No matter how positive it may be overall, change in culture and the worldview of members or leadership can create tension in the healthiest of organizations.  Or conversely, refusal to change may create stress.  Intervention at this stage of conflict can improve communication and help people adjust and work things out peaceably.

Perhaps your congregation doesn’t need full scale crisis intervention, but it would benefit from clear intervention, education, and minor mediation that would help your congregation navigate these tricky periods.

We would be happy to consult with your leadership team and engage in individual mediations or facilitation of group meetings to address important sources of conflict.  We can also impart these skills to leaders and congregants both by way of leading them through the process so they see the positive effects and by deliberate training events.

3. Crisis Management and Congregational Mediation for Highly Conflicted Congregations

If conflict is not addressed early, it can build to crisis levels.  Changes in leadership, building programs, worship innovations and capital campaigns often expose fault lines not apparent under normal circumstances.

Often these problems are ignored until these issues are out of control and have escalated into a major conflict.   Is the conflagration to the point where your congregation needs a fire truck and firefighters?  We can help with this, too.

The professional mediators of Just Mediation, LLC, (Alexandria Skinner, J.D., Beth Padgett, M.A., and Mark Buchan, M.A.) are equipped by training, experience, and calling, to intervene and guide in crisis laden situations and assist your church in healing from the inside out.  We are able to manage any level of mediation, ranging from conflict coaching for individuals to design and implementation of full scale congregational mediations for large congregations.  Although our work is confidential and therefore we do not reveal the names of congregations that have utilized our services, we are confident in our ability to help.

For more information, for a consultation, or to arrange for a speaker for your group, meeting, or retreat, call 803-414-0185.



Recognizing Stages of Conflict and Knowing When to Call for Help

Conflict is a normal part of life.  It occurs every day.  At its lowest stages, conflict is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow together.  At its highest levels, outside intervention is required.  In between, there are distinct stages that most patterns of conflict follow.  Different conflict intervention strategies are effective for each different stage of conflict.

In this article, learn more about predictable stages of conflict and the types of interventions that are appropriate at the various stages.

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