Since conflict is bound to happen when people interact, small groups need to value conflict resolution. Conflict should never be swept under the rug in your small group as it provides a great time for reconciliation and discipleship. Conflict resolution must be modeled, practiced, and taught.
Based on Matthew 18:15-20, there are six key steps to resolving conflict well. Not all conflict is sin. Remember, the goal of conflict resolution is to win over your brother or sister in Christ through a biblical conflict resolution process.
Step 1: Note the offense
Be honest, and acknowledge that you have been offended or you have offended someone else. It is important to be aware of your feelings and the feelings of others. Even if we don't think you did anything wrong but someone else does, if sin is involved, Matthew 18 calls us to engage in the conflict resolution process.
Step 2: Acknowledge your responsibility
Whether you have been offended or you were the offender, as a Christian you have the responsibility to work on reconciliation and restoration as fully as you are able. (Romans 12:18)
Step 3: If offended, consider genuinely overlooking the offense
In some cases, it might be appropriate to overlook an offense - if you are able to be genuine in doing so. The test is whether you can honestly forgive without confronting. To figure this out, take time to pray and sit on the situation. Ask God whether you need to deal directly with this or whether you can let it go. This is not appropriate for all offenses and is not meant to be a copout for conflict avoiders.
Step 4: Take the log out of your own eye
Start with self-examination. Don't face conflict resolution unprepared. Take time to reflect on what you have contributed to the conflict. (Matthew 7:1-5) Ask God to show you what part you have played in the situation, and be willing to ‘own’ your part with the other person.
Step 5: Go in private
This is significant. Don't talk about the conflict with others. Don't bring it up in small group. Talk to the person in a very respectful way. Sharing with a third party before bringing it to the person that has offended you, or you have offended, is a sin and can be divisive and destructive.
Step 6: Show your brother or sister their fault (if you were offended)
This must be done in an appropriate way. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul says to speak the truth in love. To do this you must use the right tone, body language, and choice of words. It is important to affirm the relationship first. Throughout the process, stay open-minded and focus on getting to the root of the problem. Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean to lecture or blast the person!
Or Step 7: Confess and ask for forgiveness (if you are the offender)
To learn the seven steps of confession, see below.
‘‘HE WHO CONCEALS HIS SINS DOES NOT PROSPER, BUT WHOEVER CONFESSES AND RENOUNCES THEM FINDS MERCY.’’
‘‘IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST AND WILL FORGIVE US OUR SINS AND PURIFY US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.’’
1 JOHN 1:9
‘‘DO YOUR PART TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH EVERYONE, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.’’
Seven Steps of Confession
1. Address everyone involved
That may mean confessing just to God; or that may mean confessing to others as well.
2. Avoid ‘ifs, buts and maybes’
A confession does not include making excuses.
3. Admit specifically what you did wrong
It’s easy to hide behind vague generalities. Don’t do it. Identify your sinful attitudes (pride, selfishness, envy, greed, bitterness, ingratitude, stubbornness, etc.) and sinful actions and acknowledge them clearly.
4. Acknowledge the hurt you’ve caused and ask for forgiveness
Let God and the other person know that you realize your sinful behavior hurt them. Sincerely ask them to forgive you for the hurt or offense you have caused.
5. Accept the consequences
Tell God that you’re willing to bear the consequences of your sin. God may graciously let you off the hook. That’s His call, not yours. Sometimes the consequence means a resulting lack of trust from the hurt person. This doesn’t mean they haven’t forgiven you. Be patient and let them process.
6. Alter your behavior
Proverbs 28:13 says we should confess and forsake our sin. Make a commitment that with God’s help, you won’t repeat the sin.
7. Accept God’s forgiveness
If, after confessing your sin, you find your conscience still plagued with guilt, that’s not from God. He says that if you confess, He will forgive. Believe it and accept it!
Application: Discuss these steps so your apprentice is familiar with this process. This will be a resource for future small group ministry.