Conflicting Church Visions

Recently I had the privilege of a conversation with Melanie Wallschlaeger, mission developer for SW Washington Synod, ELCA, she impressed upon me the need for care in developing the vision for a church. A vision needs to connect the community to God, to the community and to each other; to community it’s esp. important not merely as service provider but in relationship. When you’re gone, if the community misses what you do, you’re a provider. If the community knows who you are and misses YOU, you are in relationship and a good one. You impact the community emotionally as well as by what you do.

The issue boils down to who sets the vision for the church and who decides what is best. Far from being an “anything goes” situation, there has to be at least a few objective standards for what constitutes a church, and a healthy one. If a church is focused inward, on itself, no matter how many members “catch the vision” it is not a good vision for the church, or it may be a good vision for a social club but not a community of faith. When facilitating, asking questions like “Is that the most important thing for (y)our congregation to do?” and “What would Jesus say about such a vision?” Such questions can keep the focus of the vision on others and God, not within.

Conflict Mediation Encouragement

There is a certain amount of dependence of the mediator in mediation. He or she is the pro, and his or her word is respected. If I say, “You’re very close,” or “You’re not going to get agreement today,” that can be accepted as truth. So it is very important to be positive yourself as you work with parties, even if you may not feel that way. Never give up until they give up, and even then, try to get them to think of other angles and possibilities. The other day, I had a mediation that was supposed to finish in 2 hours. It didn’t. It went past three hours before the possibility of breakthrough began to emerge. Several times, they were wanting to finish off, but by asking for one more try repeatedly and respectfully, without pushing, I was able to get agreement in the end. Encourage another time, another another angle, ask for the reason behind the position several times, as sometimes reasons only emerge with the passing of time, as they learn to trust you, the mediator.