4 Strategies for Preventing Group Conflict
Managing potential conflict can build stronger community
By BSF Staff
Be honest—is there someone in your Bible study group you just don’t like? Or two people who always disagree? Do you leave without feeling heard and understood by others?
As you share vulnerably and openly, you may also begin to disagree, annoy each other, and even cause hurt.
Yet when you approach these situations with compassion, your group can grow together and prevent conflict from escalating. In community, we live out Jesus‘s command, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
Use these four helpful strategies to navigate relational challenges in your small groups.
1. Listen well
Your group may have members from different denominations, theological perspectives, life circumstances, cultures, and more. What if these differences could bring richness and depth to your group rather than tension?
Unity is not built by being the same but by respecting and appreciating the different gifts that each person brings to your group. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:6).
What could you learn by listening to each other? While another person is speaking, try to focus on understanding their perspective rather than formulating your own response (or judgment).
Some helpful responses may be:
- What I hear you saying is [summarize their viewpoint as you understand it]. Is that right?
- I understand why you believe ______. Have you also considered _____?
- I know that this is an issue we don’t agree on. Would you be interested in getting coffee with me so I can learn more about your perspective?
What if differences could bring richness and depth your group rather than tension?
2. Build empathy
Our different personalities and experiences might make it easy to misinterpret another’s behavior. What one person experiences as bold, another may interpret as rude. What one person believes to be helpful advice could feel like criticism to the recipient.
Knowing this reality, how can you show grace to each other? Remember, your small group is made up of real people navigating real life. Before assuming the worst, try to consider a situation from their perspective.
Here are some responses that might help:
- I notice that you seem [emotion] about this topic. Do you want to talk about it?
- I know that you are trying to _____. It actually makes me feel _____.
- You seem stressed today when _____. Is there anything you want to share?
God calls us to bear with one another and to forgive as we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13).
Your small group is made up of real people navigating real life.
3. Evaluate your own heart
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by any relational challenges in your group. But not all disagreement or even discomfort is bad. When we are faced with differences of opinion or personality, we may want to back away, but it could be a time to lean in and grow together!
To evaluate the group dynamic, think back to the expectations your group established when you began meeting with each other:
- Is the tone of your conversation respectful?
- Are you giving every group member a chance to speak?
- Do you respect perspectives that are different from your own?
- Are you showing grace to others when they offend you?
Pray for God’s wisdom to help you discern where there is tension and build peace. The wisdom of God is described as pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, impartial, and sincere (James 3:17-18).
Not all disagreement or even discomfort is bad.
4. Ask for help
If there is conflict or tension in your group that you are not sure how to handle, it might be time to speak with your group leader.
Remember: the goal is not to gossip or create more conflict but to build relationships and create a stronger group dynamic. It may be best to set up a one-on-one meeting with your leader in an environment outside of your regular group meeting.
Navigating relational challenges can be a heavy task. But take heart: We worship the Prince of Peace!
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