By Charity M. Walker-Byers and John M. Walker
The black clouds of church conflict too often create bad weather at home, too.
These “clouds” can cause problems that become all-consuming and overwhelming, influencing every aspect of life. When the church leader loses his or her ability to separate church life from home life, the “black cloud” can consume his or her emotions, relationships, attitude, perspective, and all other aspects of human experience.
When that happens, the home becomes a battleground and a source of unhappiness instead of a safe haven, a storm center instead of a safe harbor offering rejuvenation and rest. Spouses and children become victims of collateral damage. Spirituality is damaged, perspective is skewed, relationships can become strained, and conflict tends to overtake peace.
The “black cloud” has five major elements. If you are experiencing two or more of the following, a storm might be building:
(If you’re unsure about whether such a storm has come to your home, consider the viewpoint of your spouse, other family members, or your friends. Would they say the following characteristics describe you?)
• An annoyed spirit: you have low tolerance of others, assume the worst, have a negative outlook, and discount God’s power and grace.
• Mental distraction: you have trouble focusing, poor concentration, and are consumed by thoughts.
• Emotionally distant: you are withdrawn, have bottled-up emotions, and lack a desire for personal engagement.
• Low mood: you are sad, indifferent, uninterested, and gloomy.
• Low energy or increased agitation: you have difficulty engaging, a lack of desire, and a quick temper.
Keeping Conflict Away
It can be difficult to successfully navigate conflict at church that spills over into the home. Some may not be aware there has been any conflict. Others try to ignore it, believing it might go away, but instead it can work its way into every aspect of home life. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep church conflict out of the home.
• Recognize the conflict and how you respond to it. Do you seek appropriate support, withdraw, or lash out?
• Accept that you are in conflict and discuss it openly with a trusted friend. The goal is to discover yourself and acknowledge what you are experiencing. This will help you learn how to better manage your responses to the conflict.
• Seek counsel from an outside source and from your spouse. The intent is not to gather allies around you, but rather to maintain or gain a godly perspective to help preserve harmony and peace within the home.
• When you transition from work to home, be mindful of the changed role. Are you now in the role of pastor, church leader, parent, or spouse? Define and adhere to what this role requires of you.
• Approach your family with a Christlike attitude by putting their needs ahead of your own. This may require you to put aside your own “stuff” in order to fully engage with your family.
Take the above attitudes and perspectives to your spouse and make a plan for moving forward. Make sure the home is a safe place free of collateral damage to children or spouse. You can accomplish this by staying connected with the family and not becoming obsessed with the conflict or emotionally distant. Pursue fun and be present with the spouse and family. Pray with your spouse about the conflict, for each other and your home, and that your actions will honor God.
God’s design and intention for the home is that it be a place of blessing and beauty (Isaiah 32:18). Storms in life are inevitable, but the storms that can accompany church life need not cause a “black cloud” over your home life. By acknowledging the warning signs and embracing the suggestions to keep church conflict out of the home, you can help reverse bad weather or even prevent it from forming.
Let blue skies shine over your home. With this will come the rest, renewal, and peace you need to help you thrive in your walk with God and in your ministry.
Charity M. Walker-Byers is the clinical director of the Blessing Ranch Inc. programs for children, adolescents, and young adults. Her father, John M. Walker, is Blessing Ranch’s executive director. For more information about Blessing Ranch, go to www.blessingranch.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (970) 495-0920.