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In the end, what had been a growing, vibrant ministry was decimated. My biggest regret as I look back is that I did not contact you earlier.  I am writing this note in hopes that other congregations could be encouraged to have the wisdom to seek help before it is too late.  The pride of thinking that we can always handle such situations on our own carries too great a price.
Advice from a Battle Weary Pastor

The Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking in Practice
Outline
To be Adapted as Needed
1.  Exploratory Phase
A.
Contact me by phone to briefly discuss your situation without charge or obligation.
You have nothing to lose and a church to save!
B.
Considering purchasing a copy of my book, "Hope in the Face of Conflict: Making Peace with Others the Way God Makes Peace with Us" to learn about my overall approach to conflict resolution.
C.
Schedule a small group conference call / meeting.
1.
A discussion with the pastor, governing board of the church, and/or others will be scheduled via phone, video conference, or in-person (depending on your location). The purpose of the discussion is for me to learn more about your church and for you to learn more about me.
2.
Members of this exploratory group should be representative of the different sides to the conflict. (Those who can also speak to the history and/or inner workings of the church, such as longtime members and past and present leaders, make particularly good representatives).
>   To make the meeting as productive as possible, I will provide a set of wide-ranging questions for the participating parties to think through in advance of the meeting. The questions relate to a general description of the church and the nature of the issues currently facing it. All parties will be asked to participate with the understanding that there will be no debate regarding the merits, or lack thereof, of any issue or side.
D.
After this conference call is completed, I will reflect upon what I have learned thus far. I will then send to you a general strategy of the work I think needs to be accomplished, and the cost.
E.
If there is a desire to move forward, I will sign an agreement for services with the church and get to work.
2.  Information Gathering
A.
All parties who have been identified as having a stake in the issues at hand but did not participate in the above discussion are to be informed by their representatives of the nature and substance of the meeting. All parties should also be notified that they will be receiving a letter from me.
B.
To make my work with you as effective as possible, I will seek to identify one or two people, acceptable to all parties, who will serve as my liaisons and assistants to help move the process forward.
C.
I will engage in a study of requested church documents. Follow-up discussions will occur as needed.
D.
Those who are identified as primary or secondary stakeholders will receive correspondence from me.
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A specially crafted questionnaire will be sent out, which is to be returned to me for my study and review. Individual follow-up by phone will occur as needed.
E.
Participants may be asked to read one of my articles or material from my book, "Hope in the Face of Conflict: Making Peace with Others the Way God Makes Peace with Us," in advance of a preliminary private meeting (see below).
3.  Preliminary Meetings
A.
I will schedule separate meetings with each side. This will allow parties to elaborate and clarify their written responses.  These meetings also provide me an opportunity to build rapport with all involved before the joint sessions begin.
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A set of carefully crafted ground rules will be distributed and reviewed before the initial joint meeting.
B.
Depending upon the nature of the conflict, a meeting with the congregation may be called. This session, if called, would be about listening, not debating.
C.
Once all the preliminary meetings are complete, the initial joint meeting is scheduled.
4.  Initial Joint Meeting
All those who have been identified as primary disputants or as representatives of a group are invited to this meeting.  The agenda of this gathering is as follows:
A.
Opening Prayer.
B.
Personal Introductions.
C.
An Overview of What to Expect in the Meetings to Follow is Presented.
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Pertinent educational handouts will be distributed and discussed.
D.
Ground Rules.  The rules of conduct that will govern our dialogue and make them as healthy as possible will be discussed and agreed upon.
E.
Schedule.  We will establish a schedule for the next session.
F.
Participants will be asked to prayerfully prepare for the work that lies ahead.
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The handout entitled, "Preparing to Tell Your Story," will be distributed to each participant.
G.
Closing Prayer.
5.  The Art of Peacemaking
It is beyond the scope of this outline to explain all of the components of this endeavor. The Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking will be utilized.  (See my book, "Hope in the Face of Conflict: Making Peace with Others the Way God Makes Peace with Us" for a description of the model).

Suffice it to say, each party will be given the opportunity to tell his or her story. Differences in perspectives will be identified and explored.  Underlying interests will be uncovered.  Strains in interpersonal relationships will be addressed with a view toward interpersonal healing and reconciliation.  Factors contributing to the conflict such as organizational policies and procedures, church culture, communication patterns, and individual behavior will be addressed.  Solutions will be proposed.  Mutually acceptable solutions will be adopted.
6.  Map for the Future
A.
The immediate goal at this stage is to create a memorandum of agreement.  This is a written document that incorporates the joint decisions reached in the previous phase of the process.  It represents a widely supported way forward that maps where the church is headed and the steps on how to get there.
B.
I will prepare or oversee the preparation an initial draft of the memorandum.  It will then be reviewed by all the parties for accuracy and needed modifications.  It will continue to be revised until it reflects the group's sentiment.
C.
The final document will be signed by all the participants as a testimony to their collaborative work as well as a practical guide for the implementation of future actions that need to be carried out. The signing will be celebratory!
D.
Depending on the circumstances and nature of the conflict, a congregational meeting may be called.
7.  Establishing the "First Responders Initiative" in Your Church  (optional)
Reaching agreement does not signal the end of the peacemaking process.  It inaugurates a new beginning. What is typically needed at this juncture is the establishment of a mechanism by which issues that arise in the future can be constructively addressed.  With the approval of leaders, I will establish such an in-house peacemaking process to do just that.
8.  Ongoing Care and Follow-Up
A pediatric heart surgeon once shared with me that he rarely loses a patient on the operating table.  It is in the days that follow the surgery when his patients are at greatest risk. In a church, reaching mutual agreement and resolution is critically important. After-care is also indispensable. I will continue to monitor the progress of the church and provide ongoing guidance after my onsite visit is completed.  If deemed prudent, an additional onsite visit will be scheduled.

Permission to make copies of this information for use in your local church is granted provided that it is distributed free of charge and all copies indicate the copyright and source as listed below. For any other use, advance permission must be obtained.

© Copyright 2012  Newberger & Associates, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com

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