Simple Steps to Effective Conflict Resolution

Everton Ennis

So, you have a tense situation on your hand? How do you handle it? It would probably be helpful to note that most people do not like conflict. Conflict is uncomfortable, causes us stress and upsets the peaceful vibes in the environment.

Conflict is a daily occurrence. Somewhere, somebody is in conflict… even among those of us who comprise the Church. So what is conflict anyway?

I define conflict as a state of tension or alienation between two or more people due to malice or the mishandling of disagreement. This field of study is what my doctoral research is all about. Conflict! Now why in the world would someone study about conflict exclusively and for the entirety of a doctoral degree? The simple answer is that I was searching for answers.

As a new pastor, some fifteen years ago, I quickly realized that I was not adequately prepared for what the saints were more than willing to dispense! Churches have a lot of conflict. Two major contributing factors are (1) most people don’t have a working definition of what conflict is, and (2) most have not been intentionally or properly taught how to deal with the inevitability of conflict. Since I’ve given my studied definition of conflict in the previous paragraph, let me now provide some basic steps (not an exhaustive or comprehensive list) to effective conflict resolution.

Step #1 – Pray!

Why would I say to pray? Praying even a soft, quickly muttered, cry for divine help will pay huge dividends. Prayer provides us with that brief pause that we need in order to delay our impulsive, vehement, counter-attack against our perceived enemy. Some people will tell you to count to ten. I happen to believe that “counting” on God in that moment is priceless and may very well prevent a multitude of sins of the bruised ego. This isn’t your “let’s kneel, bow your head and close your eyes type of prayer.” This is one of those emergency prayers like the one Peter prayed with his head barely above water! This is a prayer for emergency assistance. This pause interrupts the possibility of our brutal response to our would-be assailant.

Step #2 – Assess the Situation.

Now that cooler heads have prevailed (at least your head, because you prayed), we can begin to rationally assess the matter. An emotional reaction is our human inclination when provoked. Careful assessment engages the rational powers of the brain. So, who wants to think during the moment of brewing conflict? The Christian does, because he or she is a peacemaker. Be sincere about seeking peace. Think the situation through. This isn’t natural, I know. It won’t work perfectly every time, but the more we train ourselves to practice this formula, the better we will become at practicing it in the heat of the moment. A quick assessment asks mental questions as: Why is this happening? What type of cause for disagreement is this? How did I contribute in some way to this situation?

Look for more steps in Part 2. Until then, remember to quietly pray… and quickly assess the situation.

Everton Ennis


Dr. Everton A. Ennis is the author of “From Holy Hell to Hallelujah Again: Surviving the Consuming Flames of Congregational Conflict” and Pastor of New Jerusalem Praise & Worship Center in Douglasville, GA. He also pastors Newnan First SDA Church in Newnan, GA, and is a Licensed General Civil Mediator, Congregational & Corporate Conflict Resolution Specialist and Founder & President of CLASS Act Seminars

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