Keys to Effective Conflict Resolution (Pt.6)

Mark McCleary
This submission is number six of seven in a series on conflict and conflict resolution. This is also pt. 2 and final submission about conflict resolution training with pt. 1 being the previous submission. It would probably be most beneficial to review parts one-five before proceeding with this sixth part.


Training Preparation. When determining what type of training is appropriate, Costantino and Merchant (1996) suggest several questions which will help parties decide what the best training methodology is. The intent of such questions should include concern for the purpose of the training; the training audience; assessing training needs; who will conduct the training; how training will be used; and how will participants be motivated to use the training (Costantino & Merchant, 1996)? These insights resonate with my prior rationalizations that they are important issues to consider when formulating or designing the training feature attached to CCRPTM. Their major conclusion is that training should not be haphazard but reflective and calculated to meet the real needs of a certain context.

There are several training designs that provide a suggested framework for consideration during the development of CCRPTM’s training component. For example, Sue De Wine (2001) offered a training design which covered several steps, such as, initial activities focused on collaboration, building sustenance and energy, and then reducing resistance to training. Paul Lederach’s (1995) perspective design posited the application of cognitive knowledge. Lederach’s design includes demonstration and participatory features. An important aspect of his training design is its final phase of evaluation via a question and answer opportunity wherein its impact is sought in order to determine its effectiveness. A brief synthesis of Dewine’s and Lederach’s training approaches yield some training design highlights that includes a need for initial rapport-building; intra-organizational collaboration and support in training plans in order to increase energy and lessen resistance for training, and lastly, cognitive and demonstrative activities should be intensified by evaluative feedback that is trainer-expertise centered. The emphasis in this reasoning is that training is essential and preparations for proper training is also useful if conflict resolution content and know-how are to be impactful and effective.

Paul Meerts’ (2002) passive and active design is a trainer dominant approach that does not force participants to do anything, but focuses their attention on the trainer. This design assumes participants should be dependent on the expertise of a facilitator who can encourage participants with a developmental approach. Louis Kreisberg’s training workshop design is similar to the goal of Meerts’ design in that it is heavily dependent on a facilitator also. This facilitator-centered training design focuses on the facilitator helping participants in every discussion or session to solve their problems (Kreisberg, 2002), but differs from the passive design of Paul Meerts by revolving around a participant self-assessment and exercise for sake of improving post-training decisions and skill development (Meerts, 2002).

Several training designs are tailored to enhance participant communication skills. The underlying assumption in these designs is that there is need for dialogue and understanding if conflict is to be constructively solved (Phillips, 2001). Training designs should include minimal concern for situation relevance, activities for increased impact, focus on perspectives, and trainer versus trainee dynamic. Such training concerns delivery of materials and necessitates adequate preparation time. Some valuable materials include video and audio tapes, books, and study guides. According to Ron Zemke and Judy Armstrong (1997), sound training involves consideration of training type or a particular type of situation should have major influence on training materials. Zemke and Armstrong also suggest that adequate preparation time is essential if material and other substantive issues are to be considered in the design of effective training. Depending on training type, they suggest preparation time can range from 1-100 hours.

The value of this discussion is that it provides theoretical grounding for the training feature attached to CCRPTM and the training module developed from this study. Such module is designed to set forth the salient features of CCRPTM, and thereby re-enforce CCRPTM’s content and objectives as well as foster its increased implementation by AEC SDA congregants in DMV. Pragmatism posits a functional correlation between thought and action (Ritzer, 2004). The importance of these discussions is their collective intent to emphasize the delivery and use of the information contained in CCRPTM. The discussion of training design highlights that know-how discourse is essential to knowledge or thought in that it expresses the  rationale for CCRPTM’s pedagogy as well as how to implement its information by manual participants.

Training evaluation. Evaluation developed as a movement that “arose from outside the academy” (Walvrood, 2004, p. 5). Some of the external academy arenas from which it developed are the legislative, employment, and governmental settings. Evaluation has expanded into an interdisciplinary field (Fisher, 2000) geared to find out what happened and learn about consequences or impact concerns (Dye, 2005). Evaluation seeks to measure and describe effectiveness of an application. Since the training feature included in the completion of this study’s goal is intended to improve tool implementation, an evaluation component has been attached to help determine its impact. Much evaluation is “produced largely in the absence of hard evidence suggesting that the decision to do so makes sense” (Lipsky et al., 2003, p. 295).

For the purpose of this study, evaluation is an important feature for encouraging effective conflict resolution training and often yields a positive outcome that allows for determining conflict resolution intervention and training impact. Lederach’s Perspective (1995) training design briefly discussed above includes evaluation as a key feature. The element of hope in conflict resolution is intensified by the inclusion and implementation of training that expresses this same hope as a new vision and outcome. Thus, evaluation is a way of assessing if that hope has been realized.

The practicality of this study is not only the conflict resolution content itself, but its training feature that facilitates applying such content to improve conflict resolution skill know-how. The evaluation feature emphasizes how important it is to determine how effective the forthcoming conflict resolution training manual will have been for its potential AEC SDA congregants in DMV.

I am aware that some will notice and describe this as a shortcoming of this study; the lack of data and analysis related to the impact of CCRPTM from its potential users. However, I deal with scope issues in the methodology section of this study and feel confident that this study allows for this perceived shortcoming in the eyes of some might be addressed in a future study focused on participant feedback concerning tool impact. I did include some feedback from some of my present congregants at the end of my conflict stories that I believe provides more dimension and credibility to methodology for this study. While waiting for response to an editorial submission from my committee, I decided to sample anyone who responded to my offer to read my introduction and manual chapters and then write a brief impression statement. Eleven accepted and seven actually responded in my two-week window (see chapter four).

This discussion is intended to move evaluation from the realm of espoused theory to theory in use. Sue DeWine (2001) aptly states that evaluation is “critical, but often neglected” (DeWine, 2001, p. 383). This is to say that to be beneficial, evaluation must be implemented, monitored, and reported. Evaluation to measure how well the overall conflict resolution pedagogy and attending training has been embraced and effective must be a featured component of the manual itself if the tool, to be developed by this study, is to bring closure to regarding these concerns.  Robert Fritz (1996) supports this reasoning when he describes evaluation as a “powerful instrument for change and for strengthening and for extending capacity” (p. 247).  The challenge for both this study and the AEC SDA church situation in DMV is to incorporate and promote the implementation of evaluation as an essential climax to CCRPTM. As with the conflict resolution manual itself, it takes collective commitment to this aspect of the overall conflict resolution intervention process in order to measure any benefit from this often under-emphasized aspect of conflict resolution pedagogy. Thus, evaluation can serve as an intentional and structural medium for determining such commitment and its attending by-product of actual use and impact.

Evaluation is not offered here as an expertise, but as a guide for reviewing manual and training impact. Barbara Walvrood (2004) describes evaluation as a sin que non-feature of “systematic collection of information in order to inform a decision about how to improve” (p. 2). This approach emphasizes and encourages feedback from critical analysis concerning tool application and impact. Such evaluation objective is to facilitate accurate communication and thereby improve skills. If I am right that evaluation is a process of monitoring activities if they are being implemented as intended (Fisher, 2000), then the information collected often becomes the seeds for stimulating reform because their seminal insights clarify goals or measures progress toward an achievement (Costantino & Merchant, 1996).

The application of evaluation can be either indirect or direct (Maki, 2004). Indirect evaluation is designed to represent or demonstrate what was learned or worked. Direct evaluation is designed to discover the perceptions of what was learned or the learning process itself. Evaluation can also be either quantitative or qualitative in the nature of its reporting (DeWine, 2001). Quantitative evaluation concerns interpreting numbers and qualitative evaluation emphasizes observer interpretation. All of these approaches are fundamentally interested in the effects that can be learned from evaluation. In other words, evaluation is concerned with measuring certain things in order to determine program impact. According to Sue DeWine (2001), the most frequent areas for evaluation are effectiveness, efficiency, adequacy, equity, appropriateness, or responsiveness. Other theorists suggest additional areas of concern for evaluation such as costs, satisfaction with outcomes, effect on relationship, and recurring or durable results (Ury et al., 1988). The message of this discussion is that unless evaluation is included, much that happens will result from hit and miss efforts rather than relevant feedback. For the pragmatic intent of this study to reach its objective, the conflict resolution tool it seeks to develop must include the thinking of evaluation theorists in order to inform the attitudes, awareness, and actions of the tool’s beneficiaries if they are to improve in conflict resolution pedagogy and skill development.

Conflict resolution training summary and Theoretical Statement Portion. In this section, it was discussed that training has a diversity of typologies that should be considered when seeking to match with the demands of a particular situation. Training is intended to improve skill and participant motivation. As an educational intervention, training seeks to ground conceptual and skill know-how. Good training involves proper materials and demands adequate preparation time.

The subsequent statement consists of the conflict resolution training portion to the overall theoretical composite statement for grounding CCRPTM. As with the previous sections, this statement results from a synthesis of this section’s discussions in order to glean their salient insights. Finally, the preceding theoretical portions are combined below to yield the overall [composite] theoretical statement for linkage of CCRPTM to its study setting.  

The following explanation of reality is appropriate for explaining the conflict resolution training intervention attached to CCRPTM: Conflict resolution training is an essential educational feature of CCRPTM and is attached to an evaluation component in order to increase and determine participant motivation, commitment to use CCRPTM, as well as assess the overall impact of CCRPTM.

After such a deliberate process, it is felt that a composite theoretical statement would yield comprehensive grounding to CCRPTM for its unique setting of AEC SDA congregants in DMV. Thus, the following composite theoretical statement provides an understanding of conflict, conflict resolution, and conflict resolution training discourses that yields a social scientific grounding for CCRPTM and its setting of AEC SDA congregants in DMV. This composite statement provides a way for AEC SDA congregants in DMV to view and apply social conflict and conflict resolution praxis that takes them beyond Biblical proscriptions concerning social life alone.

“Social conflict should be viewed in multiple ways and explained by diverse foci expressing its ubiquitous nature of opposition between interdependent interactionaries over perceived incompatibility and mis-communication. In response to this observation, a pedagogy of conflict resolution procedures centered on negotiation, mediation, and arbitration that follows the outline and methodology of Matthew 18:15-20 is a constructive way to resolve social conflict in a Christian setting like AEC SDA churches in DMV wherein participants profess the Bible as their sole rule for faith and practice, while accepting the valuable input of social science knowledge. Conflict resolution training is an essential educational feature of CCRPTM and is attached to an evaluation component in order to increase and determine participant motivation, commitment, as well as assess the overall impact of CCRPTM.”

Literature Review Conclusions

The primary objective for this review was to learn what is known or unknown as it relates to the study’s intent. I confess that this is an exhausting effort while yielding inexhaustive findings. Over all, my discoveries yielded insights that encouraged the pursuit of this study and eventual fulfillment of its goal. According to Stan Toler and Alan Nelson (1999), The five star church: Serving God and His people with excellence, “Eighty percent of churches in the United States have plateaued or are declining” (p. 20). AEC SDA churches in DMV cannot continue with a business as usual approach. Late President Theodore Roosevelt stated, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”  While Roosevelt was not speaking directly about pastoral and church ministry issues, I believe he meant that until someone showed how much he or she cared about a certain topic or issue no one cares about that knowledge. In keeping with Roosevelt’s meaning, this study is authored by one who cares enough about his topic to search existing literature for what help it might provide so academics and lay persons might also care about his reported discoveries. As the beneficiary of these literature offerings, this study speaks to its major constructs with hope that its ideations will offer help in fulfilling this study’s goal of developing a tool that AEC SDA congregants in DMV can use for conflict resolution pedagogy and skills development to maintain or restore healthy relationships within their church setting.

The secondary purpose for this review has been to provide information in launching and guiding this study. Its insights speak to a chronic need within the academy concerning specific references related to conflict, conflict resolution, and conflict resolution training praxis in a Christian congregational context. These insights also indicate the bright hope that this study’s findings will stimulate increased conflict and conflict resolution pedagogical awareness with the Academy, particularly within a Christian congregational situation, as well as transformation among AEC SDA congregations in DMV.

My observations provided a view of what exists, while not demanding the strict emulation of its findings. This is to say that they provide a view that conflict resolution theory and practice discourse is a worthy subject and viable study objective in developing structured conflict resolution procedures that have potential for helping AEC SDA congregants in DMV constructively solve their social conflicts. Hopefully, with the use of CCRPTM, academicians can give more direct attention to congregational conflict and conflict resolution phenomena, as well as positively impact my religious cultural group becoming change agents.  In other words, as they use this conflict resolution tool, they might become role models as well as provide this service to their religious peers. I envision that as the members of these congregations use this tool, they might become agents of transformation by living and sharing its message of conflict and conflict resolution knowledge and skill development. If this becomes a reality, perhaps this tool might be viewed as an evangelistic and social services tool as church leaders and members offer its educational and training content to any group or organization seeking to enhance their quality of social life.

My review yielded source material for my “pastorism” or “pastorist” stance and my reasons for using a synthesizing process to develop theoretical grounding for linking CCRPTM to the study setting and helping to establish its academic credibility. Thus, pastorism expresses my autoethnographic motivation and objective to address the conflict resolution void within my religious cultural group by describing my understanding of its decision to attempt to solve it by developing a conflict resolution tool. I believe, crystallizes my position in the study as sole researcher and developer of its objective.

In closing, there are several conclusions that stand out as salient insights learned during this review. One, there is a gap in the literature specifically related to church conflict and conflict resolution knowledge and practice concerning interpersonal, intragroup, and intergroup conflict related to a Christian church setting in particular. This observation signals a justification for the study itself and its potential findings helping to close this gap. Two, a variety of research designs were observed that might be adapted for analyzing social conflicts. The essential idea of these discussions is that a one-size-fits-all design was not suggested by the literature and provides at least indirect support for this study’s autoethnographic approach that narrates a particular situation and the researcher’s unique response to its problem that underscores life’s demand for variegated particularity. Three, the many training models observed indicate the importance and vitality of this study’s projected tool having potential for increasing conflict resolution intervention impact since it has incorporated training as one of its vital features. Last, with appropriate evaluation, this study and its completed goal—CCRPTM—should have a measureable impact on social [congregational] harmony and ministry effectiveness. At least, evaluating findings can help determine the impact this tool might have and whether it needs adjustment for maximum benefit.

Mark McCleary


Dr. Mark A. McCleary holds both Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and brings with them a passion for conflict management, church renewal and social justice. Having been born in Baltimore, he recently returned to his hometown to pastor the Liberty SDA Church. He is the author of several books including The Gospel Presentation. You can contact him via Facebook or email.

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