Understanding Conflict in Small Groups

Practical information that will help you prepare for that inevitable clash

Depending on how conflict was dealt with in our families—and depending on our own conflict style—we may be more or less comfortable with this area of small-group life. Personally, I assume that conflict is a normal part of all human interactions. Nonetheless, some types of conflictive behavior are easier to deal with than others.

When interacting with my family, I prefer a forthright sharing of feelings and thoughts with all parties committed to finding a solution. I do not like name-calling, temper tantrums, and shouting. But other family members like to have a good fight with lots of theatrics, floods of tears (called "a good cry"), and a cathartic act of making up to round everything off. As a family, we have learned how to deal with the differences in our conflict behaviors and styles, although this learning is an ongoing process.

In a small group, each person brings his or her own conflict styles and preferences from a unique family background. Some people prefer peace at any cost, so their style may be avoidance. Some people have a more persuasive style and feel compelled to convert others to their point of view. Others with an assertive style simply like to wade into an argument and get excited when a discussion heats up.

That's why it's vital to talk about how the group would like to deal with conflict when setting up a covenant in the first gatherings.

Levels of Conflict

In her book How to Mobilize Church Volunteers, Marlene Wilson suggests a helpful approach to conflict within groups and congregations. She highlights four levels of conflict and how they may be addressed.

  • A first level of conflict is informational. People do not have the same information, and a simple exchange of facts and sharing of conflicting viewpoints is sufficient to clear up any misunderstanding.

Article Preview

This Article is currently available to SmallGroups.com subscribers only. To continue reading:

free newsletter

Sign Up For Our weekly Newsletter Regular access to innovative training resources, Bible-based curriculum, and practical articles.

Related

Invite Group Members to Share Deeply

Invite Group Members to Share Deeply

3 key skills to create a safe environment for small groups
How Should I Handle Issues with Group Dynamics?

How Should I Handle Issues with Group Dynamics?

Strategically lead your meetings so everyone feels safe, heard, and valued.
Can I Ask Someone to Leave My Small Group?

Can I Ask Someone to Leave My Small Group?

Discerning the answer to this complex question
5 Threats to Healthy Small Groups

5 Threats to Healthy Small Groups

Is your small group dying at the hand of these common group killers?
Guía de Orientación: Líder de Grupo Pequeño

Guía de Orientación: Líder de Grupo Pequeño

Un resumen general de los básico de liderazgo de grupos pequeños.
The Gift of Listening

The Gift of Listening

Attentive listening is hard work, but it's necessary for healthy community.