How To Manage Conflict And Stay Married In Ministry

How To Manage Conflict And Stay Married In Ministry

Every relationship — even a good one — has conflict. If you don’t know how to deal with it, how to resolve it, how to manage it, you can kill your relationship.

The Bible says conflict is caused by selfishness. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” (GNT). I am basically a selfish person. I think of me before I think of anybody else. And you do, too. I want what I want and you want what you want, and when these competing desires collide, that’s called conflict.

The night before I got married, my father-in-law sat down with us and said, “There are five areas where marriages usually have conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication.”

My father-in-law was a prophet. In our marriage we’ve gone five for five! We’ve hit every single one of them.

Some of you are in major pain right now. You are frustrated. You feel stuck in your relationship because you have argued about certain issues over and over with no resolution, much less reconciliation. You don’t know what to do.

If you’re going to pull together when conflict pulls you apart, you need to follow these five instructions.

1. Call on God for help

Pray about it. Before you go to the other person and talk to them about the problem, discuss it with God.

I challenge you to practice what I call venting vertically. Many people are skilled at venting horizontally, but venting vertically is when you go to God.

Conflict often occurs when we expect other people to meet needs that only God himself can meet in our lives.

One day you stood in front of a bunch of people and you said, “I do.” What you were really saying was, “I expect.”

You weren’t thinking about what you intended to do and the promises you were going to keep. You were thinking, “Good! All my needs are going to be met now! This person is the answer to my dreams and is going to fulfill me in every way.” There is no person alive who could possibly meet all your needs. Only God can do that.

Anger is a warning light that says, “I’m expecting somebody to meet my needs.” When I have a need for you to be on time and you’re late, or when I have a need for you to notice me and you don’t, I get angry. God says, “Why don’t you try talking to me about it first?” Instead of expecting your mate to meet all your needs, God wants you to look to him.

2. Confess your part of the conflict

Before you start attacking and blaming, you need to do a frank evaluation and ask yourself, “How much of this conflict is my fault?”

When you’re wrong, admit it. And when you’re right, shut up!

Jesus said this . . .

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT)

Everybody has blind spots. Jesus says, “Before you start getting the sawdust speck out of your partner’s eye, why don’t you get the telephone pole out of yours?” Using exaggeration, he is saying to check yourself out first.

Marriage is a lifelong process of overcoming your differences. Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception. But the fact is, it’s not incompatibility. It’s selfishness and an unwillingness to change.

3. Convene a peace conference

Conflict does not resolve itself. It must be dealt with intentionally . . . deliberately. Conflict gets worse when you leave it alone. Hearts grow hardened and positions get solidified, and bridges get broken beyond repair. So you have to intentionally deal with the conflict.

The Bible is very specific about this. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (The Message).

It is impossible to worship with bitterness in your heart and unresolved conflict with others.

Postponed conflict only gets worse.

4. Consider your mate’s perspective

The secret of resolving conflict is understanding where the other person is coming from. The better you understand somebody, the less conflict you’re going to have, because you know how to deal with him or her.

How do you learn to understand someone? Listen. Listen more than you talk. Some of us get so anxious to make our point, to tell our side, to defend ourselves; we don’t even stop to listen to what the other person is saying or their point of view. It’s like the old cliché: “We must seek to understand before seeking to be understood.”

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).

When you’re angry, you’re preoccupied with yourself. But when you’re like Christ, you look to each other’s interest and not merely your own.

5. Concentrate on reconciliation, not resolution

There’s a very important difference. Reconciliation means to re-establish the relationship. Resolution means to resolve every issue by coming to agreement on everything.

You’ll discover there are some things you’re never going to agree on. I don’t care if you both love the Lord and are both dramatically in love with each other – there are some things you’re never going to agree on simply because God has wired us differently.

You’re not going to agree with everything your mate believes or thinks. But you can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s called wisdom. It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship.

Sometimes you need to seek professional help, and that’s okay. In fact, talking to a counselor is a healthy and positive choice to make. And you always need to talk to God and to each other.

Many marriage conflicts would be solved overnight if both the husband and wife would kneel before Jesus Christ and say, “We humble ourselves and humbly ask you to make this thing work. We submit our egos to you and our hurts to you. Jesus Christ, do what only you can do.”

Republished with permission. Read the original article here.

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

Spending time with God is the most significant contributor to the intimacy we share in our marriage.

1. Time with God Gives Me a Wider Perspective

When I don’’t see the forest, the trees definitely get in the way. What are some of the trees you ask? I’’ve been guilty of coveting my neighbor’s house for one. I remember a time when moving to a bigger house was all I thought about.

Sadly, the house I was living in was the answer to the previous obsession I had to get out of renting! When I don’t take time to talk to the Lord, my perceived “have-nots” really bother me. This attitude, no matter how I try to disguise it, eventually gets around to my husband’’s attention.

When I allow God, to speak to me, I have greater love for my husband, John, less anxiety about our future and I’’m easier to live with!

2. When I Make Space For God, I’’m Less Needy On My Husband

It’’s not hard for me to find “legitimate” reasons to complain, feel afraid, be insecure, hopeless etc. My “needy mode” is unattractive and makes me unfairly demanding to John. He isn’t perfect, but he is wonderful!

In contrast, when I cry out to God during hard times of worry and or depression, it’s less threatening for me to take them to John. I can be more transparent and honest with him because I’’ve prayed first and understand that he isn’t my only source for solution. It also brings our worlds together.

I tell John and remind myself, “he is the most perfect imperfect man I know!” I give him room to be fallible and affirm to him that I love him anyway.

3. Time With The Lord Gives Us “Better” Conversations

It’’s so rewarding when we use the times together to discuss things we’’ve been learning from the Lord. Our “quiet time” styles are very different, but the results are usually stimulating and provide energetic dialogue.

We end up talking about things that matter to us, often expanding our viewpoints beyond the current circumstances. It makes praying together easy and very natural. Most of the time we feel so drawn to each other that all we want to do is connect!

Debbie Woodall met her husband, John Woodall, at Bible college. They married in 1975 and now have four married children and 12 grand children. Debbie works as a freelance artist and enjoys encouraging couples in their marriages and individual walks with God.

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Yep. We go to counseling—marriage counseling.

I spent 10 years in the dating world searching for and imagining my perfect husband. My husband spent three years married to someone else before he married me. We are both pushing nearly a decade in occupational ministry, are new parents with baby two on the way, and are navigating life’s changing seasons almost daily.

Needless to say, we each bring our own history, weak spots, and relational dynamics to our marriage.

I used to be surprised by people’s reaction when I told them my husband and I go to counseling. We’ve been leaders in our church and community for many years. Perhaps “counseling” doesn’t fit people’s mold for us.

“Really? Why? What’s wrong?”  they’d say, with concerned intonations.

The truth is, nothing. Nothing is wrong.

We Don’t Go To Counseling Because We Have A Weak Marriage

We go to counseling to build a strong marriage.

So there we are in a counseling session. We sit awkwardly holding hands on faded floral couches with our McDonald’s drive-through coffees. The vertical blinds in the room are tilted just enough to let the daylight in, but not enough to expose our identity. Like counseling is something to be secret or shameful.

Counseling should not be shameful. It should be celebrated and cheered for.

When someone is engaged in counseling, it means they’re engaged in their life. It means they want to make progress toward wise, meaningful life-decisions and health.

Why are we embarrassed to need counsel or coaching? Are we ashamed to be seeking support? Ashamed that we want healthier relationships?

What does that look like?  We sit down and talk with someone much wiser than us when it comes to marriage relationships about how to have a strong, healthy relationship.

Through Counseling We Get To:

  • understand how our past impacts our present
  • learn the other’s needs in ways we don’t normally have tools to talk about
  • get an outside perspective to help us see beyond ourselves
  • dream about our future and what we hope our marriage and family will look like years down the road
  • explore what emotional intelligence looks like in our relationship—it’s worth more than money, let me assure you

Do you know what the best part of counseling has been? Someone leading us through how to have those important, meaningful conversations on our own, day-to-day.

What we have learned in counseling hasn’t stayed there. It’s given us tangible tools to build a strong marriage.

Counseling is Not One-Size Fits All

I’ll be the first to admit not all counsellors are the same. They’re not one-size-fits-all. Each one brings a unique approach, education, and skill set to the table. There are even life coaches that support you in achieving future goals and ambitions.

One counsellor might not be very helpful… but that doesn’t mean allcounsellors are not helpful.  The next one could lead to a major breakthrough.

I have also been to a counsellor when everything was not ok.  And there’s no shame in that either.

Because there are just times when we need more help and guidance than coffee with a good friend can offer.

We All Need Counseling

Frankly, life’s too short to live in pain when help is out there. And good counseling still costs less than stress-leave, sick-leave, or divorce.

In North America, why does it seem more acceptable to pay for physical health with a gym membership but not for mental and emotional health with a counseling session? Either way, the responsibility is still on you and I.

Showing up at the gym without exercising doesn’t make us any healthier than buying an apple and watching it rot. And it’s the same with counseling, we have to show up and engage.

At the end of the day, I think we all need counseling. Because we’re all human. We’ve all been hurt or broken or confused by someone or something. And there is hope. I just wish it was more socially acceptable.

So, let’s let go of the shame of counseling and celebrate the pursuit of healthy, meaningful relationships and lives.

What about you? What do you think about counseling?

4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

There is a temptation to lump religious people into the same category as non-religious people when it comes to predicting the success rate of marriage. Many have promoted the idea that the divorce rate among the two groups is nearly the same.

Speculation that non-religious couples are more likely to cohabitate rather than get married has caused some to skew the numbers toward a higher rate of divorce among people of faith, even though that can’t be verified.

Ed Stetzer points out a fact that is likely overlooked in the research. Among active people of faith, the divorce rate goes way down. Only if you look at non-practicing believers is there greater similarity in the figures.

Turns out, it’s not just about casually aligning yourself with a group of faith. You’ve actually got to practice what you preach for there to be any impact to your relationship. Novel idea, huh?

Active Faith Impacts Marriage

Imagine if you coupled an active faith with an intentional focus on keeping marriages in your church strong. If the numbers go up when people take their faith seriously, imagine how they would skyrocket if they actually turned specific attention to improving their marriage.

That’s why a marriage ministry at your church is important. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of adding one more thing to the list of activities sponsored by your congregation. However, it doesn’t have to be highly involved or expensive. It just has to be intentional.

If you’re still on the fence, consider these four points.

Not different problems, a different solution.

The people in your congregation don’t have any less exposure to marital troubles than people outside the walls of your church. They are still susceptible to miscommunication, conflict, sexual temptation, physical challenges, and other stumbling blocks.

The difference is how we respond to those obstacles, and the grace upon which we rely to get through them. Understanding how those two gifts should work within marriage is vitally important. A good marriage ministry teaches couples how to respond to problems and to accept the grace that God offers.

You’ve got a great cloud of witnesses.

There is nothing worse than going through one of life’s storms and feeling like you’re alone. When there is a group in your church working to preserve, protect, and help marriages, struggling couples have a safe place to turn. And, they feel less isolated in their struggles as they walk alongside other couples.

Go beyond information to transformation.

A good marriage ministry doesn’t just serve as a conduit for transferring facts, figures, and inspirational sayings. Only one that promotes and facilitates behavior change will have a true impact on your church family. That’s really the whole point of why we came to know the Lord in the first place, isn’t it? It wasn’t just about knowing who He was, it was about letting Him make a difference in our lives. The result of any effort in your church, including marriage ministry, should be positive change that moves people toward Christ.

Repetition anchors change.

After serving thousands of couples with an 85 percent success rate, we’re sold on one of the ingredients of our “special sauce.” Our offerings are designed to facilitate a community of people dedicated to working on their marriage for the long haul.

Week after week, couples develop the habit of paying regular attention to their marriage. They share their highs and lows and discover steps they can take to produce transformation in their relationship.

In our opinion, the question isn’t whether you have the time, money, or energy to implement a marriage ministry in your church. The real issue is whether you can afford not to. Couples who are active in their faith and consistently attentive to their marriage relationship are on the road to success.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

Marriage Dynamics Institute is a non-profit Christian ministry committed to providing marriage workshops and courses that build safe environments, promote self education, and produce extraordinary results.

6 Things Marriage Teaches You About Leadership

6 Things Marriage Teaches You About Leadership

I once spent a day with a group of ministry friends and mentors. All of whom have been leading their organizations for a long time. We had a heartfelt conversation about the challenges of leading in the same organization for most of our adult lives.

As I processed our day together, I realized there are common denominators between leadership and marriage. Most of us try to make our relationships work out, both personally and organizationally. And it’s not easy.

As you read this, know this post comes out of my experience. I realize many marriages don’’t make it. I realize that I will have a hard time understanding those dynamics. I’’ve been married to my wife Toni for 23 years. We have not always had an easy marriage, but we are both so thankful that we decided to work through the issues.

Similarly, I’’ve been in leadership with many of the same people for 18 years in the same community. It hasn’’t always been easy. But we’’ve seen some incredible things together. While these reflections come out of my personal experience, I offer them in the hopes that they help us all filter through the challenges of life and leadership.

1. There is no such thing as casual leadership

As much as we live in a culture where casual sex has become normal for many people, it doesn’’t produce strong or healthy relationships. Similarly, there is nothing casual about leadership.

Like a healthy relationship, it takes work, effort and commitment over the long haul. As much as we try to make things easier and easier in our culture, leadership will remain challenging by its very nature. Just like great relationships—it will always take work, effort and commitment.

2. You need to choose between serial commitment and long-term commitment

Someone once told me that commitment in our culture has shifted from life-time monogamy to serial monogamy; you’’re with someone exclusively for a few years until you move on.

Take a look around you. Many leaders approach leadership the same way. They’’re with an organization for 3-5 years, and then they move on.

I’’m not saying that’’s always a bad idea. But most of the people who make significant impact in an organization stay at least a decade. If you think about most ministry leaders you admire and who have transformed their organizations and communities, most have been there their entire lives.

3. It’’s easier to leave than it is to work through your issues

This is the gut wrenching part. Every leader I know who has been in leadership for a long time has been tempted to leave, tempted to pursue other interest and hit cruise control…. In other words, been tempted to have an affair on what might be their real calling.

Very few couples who make it over the long haul do so because they have “no issues”. They stay when it’s easier to leave.

4. There will be some joyless seasons

It’’s not all dancing and singing all the time. Every leader I know who is in long term leadership has either had to scale significant organization issues or even personal crises. God uses dark nights of the soul to grow us and shape us.

But here’’s the promise. If you’re being faithful, your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience.

5. Wise people realize that they are the problem

Many relationships fail because one partner says the other partner is the problem. I lived like that in my marriage and in my leadership for a season until I realized that I’’m the problem. In fact, the longer you stay in a relationship or leadership, the more you will have to come to terms with the grinding truth that you are the cap on progress.

That’’s why serial relationships and serial leadership is so wide-spread. Leave soon enough and you never have to look in the mirror. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Wise people understand that embrace that they are the problem. I tell myself almost daily that I am the problem in leadership where I serve, and that potentially God might work a solution through me.

Wise people also seek help in identifying their blind spots and problems by gather mentors, counselors and friends around them to help them spot their issues. They are also wide open to hearing about problems from the people they work with.

6. There is certain joy that only happens after years of being together

When you are able to work through your issues in a marriage, everything gets better. There’s a certain joy that comes in being with the same person for 23 years. We know things about each other that no one else can know. We can read each other better than anyone else can read us. The deep pleasure in simply being together grows every year. There’s an intimacy that only time can deliver that is almost hard to put into words.

That’s one of the things I love about working with some of the same people for years and years. There are stories whose mere mention brings a smile to everyone’’s face. The trust runs deep. And there’’s a joy in knowing you’v’e been in this together for so long and it’’s making a difference.

So what’s your experience? Do you see parallels between love, marriage and leadership? What are you learning?

Reposted with permission. Originally posted here.

How Church Can Show the Love on Ash Wednesday

How Church Can Show the Love on Ash Wednesday

Valentine’s Day happens on February 14 every year. In 2018, that day also happens to be Ash Wednesday.

These are two pretty different holidays. Valentine’s Day mostly involves excess—cheesy love songs, over-the-top romance and elaborate gifts. Conversely, Ash Wednesday is primarily about moderation. It marks the start of Lent, when most people give up something for 40 days.

Despite these differences, there is one similarity between these two days—love. Valentine’s Day revolves around romantic love. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of Christ’s sacrificial love for us.

What Does This Mean For The Church?

What is the church to do when one of our traditional Christian holidays falls on the same day as a flower-filled, Hallmark-driven, love-fest? This is actually a great opportunity to connect with those people in your community who don’t know about your church.

Ash Wednesday is an event some within the church know. For others, it’s a tradition that’s at least vaguely familiar. However, it’s not something those outside the church know at all.

The fact that these holidays fall on the same day gives us the chance to make a church tradition relevant to what society does. We have the chance to spread God’s love on a wider scale.

Connect Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day

  1. Combine your traditional Ash Wednesday service with a Valentine’s celebration; find a balance between the colorful Valentine’s decor and the humble trappings of Ash Wednesday
  2. Send out handwritten love notes to every house in a one-mile radius of your church—this could even be an opportunity to explain why we celebrate Ash Wednesday
  3. Partner with a local restaurant to give couples a discount on their date night meal if they mention your church’s name
  4. Host a relationship/marriage focused sermon series leading up to the big day that focuses on the humility of Ash Wednesday
  5. Give away relationship/marriage books that your church can read during Lent
  6. Instead of giving something up for Lent, give couples ideas of things they can start doing to improve their relationships
  7. Give your the couples in your church date night ideas—each date could start at the Ash Wednesday service so the couples can connect spiritually
  8. Host a free fancy dinner at your church for everyone in the community who can’t afford one—offer childcare so couples are more likely to attend
  9. Publish a short Lent devotional with the theme of God’s love
  10. Organize a service project to help those who don’t feel as loved in the community—encourage couples to come serve together, or singles to be a part of something that’s not all about coupled romance
  11. Post quotes about love on social media to let people know you care; then post a few verses of scripture referring back to Ash Wednesday
  12. Write words of encouragement in chalk on the sidewalks of your town—chalk isn’t the same as ash, but it’s close enough (it’ll look even closer if you use those sticks of black chalk you normally avoid).
  13. Instead of marking people’s foreheads with ash crosses, draw some ash hearts on foreheads
  14. Buy extra Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to give away to any of the busy significant others who forgot at the last minute—they can pick them up while getting their foreheads ashed

What is your church planning on doing this February 14?

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