Dealing with Troublemakers in Mediation

In mediation, there are always going to be folks who seem to want to disrupt the process. Perhaps they don’t really understand what mediation is, perhaps they don’t want to compromise or perhaps they simply want to mediate but are unable to due to conflicting emotions. Certainly one way to deal with these folks is to give them empathy. If they feel you understand them, then often they are willing then to mediate.

Another way is to simply give them attention. The best way to do this is to caucus. Often these troublemakers are 50/50 folks, those who believe that each party should have exactly the same amount of time to talk and explain their position. Once in caucus, you can explain to the other party that you need to give the troublemaker (never call them that!) more time and perhaps explain why. Then spend more time with the troubled, troubling party. Often, when you give them your whole attention for while, the troubled party can settle down and be able to mediate in caucus, and sometimes, even return to mediation together. Occasionally, you will have to explain what mediation is again or set firm but gentle limits. The worst thing you can do to a troublemaker is to ignore them.

Troublemakers in the Church

There are always folks in any congregation who are troublemakers. Usually it often wrecks a church, and rarely resthey want things their way and oppose leadership or the pastor. Many of these people are big givers (or thought to be big givers), or in smaller congregations charter members or members of the dominant family (often descendants of charter members). Sometimes they are simply folks who are “church shoppers,” those who travel to various congregations in an area, often when they are kicked out of the previous one. These church shoppers attempt to find a congregation that fits their needs, theology and attitudes perfectly. A church which fits a person exactly is a church of 1, but that doesn’t stop troublemakers from trying to turn the church into one which reflects them.

The sad part of the conflict these troublemakers cause is that seldom does all the fuss bring about the desired results. These people may want to be in power; often the congregation understands these people should NOT be in power so the the congregation resists them. In smaller older congregations these troublemakers may have been in power before and have caused problems already.If the troublemakers are in power already they can overstep their authority and really mess things up. Other members often are afraid to confront them directly because they might leave with their money or their family and friends. When these troublemakers mess up badly, they may leave the church permanently (to go to another) or temporarily (fade into the congregation until they think trouble has blown over. In either case, they leave behind havoc and others have to clean up their mess. Sometimes they stay and drive a church into the ground.

The hard and best remedy for these troublemakers is to deal with them gently at first, but to deal with them immediately. Since many of these troublemakers will get frustrated and leave eventually anyway, why not confront them first? It may fly in the face of most people’s attitudes as Christians(be nice), but to leave these people to act and react is not helpful to the congregation or to the troublemakers themselves.-GB