If you stay in the coaching game long enough, at some point you will coach leaders on how to deal with controversy, division in the body, and disciplinary issues. It can be a sad state of affairs when these issues hit the fan, but these issues are a part of life. As a coach, you have an opportunity to help leaders rise above the problem and take the higher ground.

Conflict in churches can range between problems with specific people or with specific ideas to clashes in philosophy of ministry to schisms between entire congregations. Some issues will be fairly black and white while many more are complex and nuanced. It is the job of a coach to see through the conflict, the tempers and the pride, to the best path forward. 

As an example: imagine working with a church and a scandal takes place; a volunteer youth leader has been caught having inappropriate relationships with various members of the congregation. The news is already spreading. You receive a call from the lead pastor asking for wisdom handling the situation. The church has already called in a lawyer and has spoken with the volunteer youth leader, but the lead pastor also knows that the volunteer youth leader was beloved by the congregation, and there will be a messy fall-out of people who feel hurt and betrayed and, perhaps, even some that will come to the volunteer youth leader’s defense. 

In this case, the church acted quickly and had a clear procedure to follow, which makes your job easier. However, the lead pastor and the volunteer youth leader have already exchanged a lot of angry words, before involving you, that they cannot take back. Ideally, the lead pastor would have set a boundary, refusing to relay anything but necessary information to the volunteer youth leader, while they searched for a mediator. Now, your client is seeking wisdom to undo damage that has been done, find the most peaceful resolution possible, and help the church handle the blowback. 

This is when you call on your “inner coach” (or the Holy Spirit) to help you remain anchored in Him and share your wisdom through listening and asking questions. A coach does not need to respond to the impulse to give input unless explicitly asked (and only after the client has exhausted all of their resources and are at the end of their tether). 

At the same time, you are invested in the life of this leader. You are empathetic. And you are concerned. What can you do and what should you avoid doing as a coach?

Principles to follow when vetting a church discipline situation:

  • Help your client process their emotional toll booth
  • Help your client gather the facts
  • Help your client stay anchored in Christ
  • Help your client find the truth
  • Help your client create a game plan & clarify next steps
  • Help your client identify people to communicate with 
  • Help your client discern what to communicate
  • Help your client identify who NOT to communicate with
  • Help your client take responsibility
  • Help your client to release control

Key Questions to ask: 

  • What is the nature of the offense?
  • To what degree will this have on the church community?
  • Who needs to know what is happening immediately?
  • What are the potential threats to deal with? 
  • What is the goal? 

Resources to coach on Conflict Resolution:

Conflict Resolution: Skill Builder Booklet

Conflict Management Storyboard

Conflict Management: Coaching Guide with Storyboard

Do you want to take your team on the disciple-making journey together? The Discipleship Collective helps you mobilize other disciple makers. Take the Disciple Maker Quiz to discover the habits in which you are excelling and the growth points on which you need to focus. Then invite other members of your team to join you. It’s FREE and you can use it as often as you like! 

 If you want your team to be better equipped to make disciples consider the DISCIPLESHIP COLLECTIVE.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash


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