People will always perceive conflict in different ways. Some avoid it at all costs while other seemingly do things to create it! Some see conflict as healthy; others never see anything good about it. This I do know: see it as you may, conflict does occur on mission trips. As a leader it’s not a matter of will we need to help navigate our team through conflict, but rather how will we do so.
As I think about conflict resolution on mission trips, it occurs to me that most conflict comes from a few main areas:
- Personal wounds
- Physical stress on a mission trip
- Self-focus and a perceived “need” for creature comforts
- The intensity of being with a group of people for the duration of the trip
- Our own internal conflict or possibly external conflict during the trip
The number one tool as we navigate conflict among our teams is LOVE. Not to be cliche, but love is the number one ingredient to coming to a healthy end to conflict. Love seeks the best for all involved, desires a genuine solution and is patient in the process. For example, love is willing to see a person’s area of wounding and seek out a way for them to grow in the process. This is not to say we go soft on the process, but we do seek out the steps a person seems to be ready to take. This is love in action.
So how do we act in love as we navigate conflict with a mission team?
- Ask lots of questions.
- Genuinely listen to the answers.
- Protect individuals worth – for example, only involve those who need to be involved. Don’t make things a bigger deal than they need to be.
- Be honest and firm, in a way that maintains dignity.
- Look out for the teams’ best interest, particularly when you have a team member who is simply not interested in a mature solution to the conflict. Sometimes love will separate the individual for the best of the whole.
- Don’t take things personally, particularly if the conflict is being directed at you as the leader.
A few more practical tips:
- Your host can often be a significant help. Ask them for advice, ideas and input.
- Don’t forget, you always have an IMM staff member on call. Sometimes it can really help to text them for input, ideas and prayer.
- Take care of yourself. Get proper sleep, food, water and devotional time. This will help you be ready to deal with sometimes challenging conflict.
Above all, know that conflict will come, because you are leading people! As a leader, take it in stride, apply love and rest in God’s grace (His ability working through you). You will do great!