"Conflict management" was sure to be a hot topic during the recent LEAD clergy leadership seminar.
More than 60 pastors had attended sessions on personal and corporate financial management before tackling this subject during the Oct. 8-9 seminar at Oklahoma City University.
Presenter Robert Martin described conflicts within churches as "one of the really sticky problems." He pointed to the ritual of Holy Communion as a solution.
"We get enamored by issues. We talk all day about what hymns are appropriate, what tasks," said Rev. Dr. Martin. "How are we relating to one another? Talk about issues only after we have talked about relationship."
The business agenda is not of first importance when a church committee meets, according to this professor of church leadership and practical theology, from Saint Paul seminary in Kansas City.
In Eucharist, he sees a model of deeper purpose for any group’s work: gathering at table, sharing of self for others, and leaving transformed for God’s mission.
The pattern of Eucharist "teaches us, informs us how to relate to one another," Martin said.
"Workplaces and families act in conflict. That’s not Church. We are to embody Christ, to put ourselves in the place of pure love," he continued.
Help people understand this vision through your teaching and leadership, Martin urged pastors, and that will lead to more harmony in ministry.
Help groups to form covenants of relationship for their work. "What is the most Christ-like way to come together for a meeting?" Martin asked and also answered.
Speak always in love—or don’t speak. Print the covenant and display it at the meeting. Remind people of it. Establish patterns of liturgy and hospitality for every meeting.
"Help people bring the messy bread of their lives and give more of it to God," he said.
The seminar series continues Feb. 18-19. LEAD is a collaborative educational project to sustain, improve, and inspire spiritual leadership and clergy effectiveness. Topics cover "what you didn’t learn in seminary," according to brochures.
One seminar participant commented, "Tough issues. Thanks for the help."
The sponsoring groups are: Saint Paul School of Theology, the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation, OCU, the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, and the Oklahoma Conference. Registration was through the Oklahoma Conference Treasurer’s Office.