All within the Church have power, in the sense of being able to affect each other. The effects which some people’s actions have, can, however, be more significant than those of others. This can be related to their status within the community, the office they hold, the length of time they have been associated with the Church, or because of individual charisma. Power can be expressed and embodied in particular words and actions, or it can be exercised ‘non-actively’, through an atmosphere which supports, or which silences or stifles... In all of these places, power can be used to energise and enable, or to dominate and overrule.

Manage conflict, or it will manage you. Whenever churches have faced conflict openly, the congregations have grown stronger in the process. But whenever they have hidden from conflict, it has emerged when congregations are the weakest and least prepared. The longer the congregation hides, the more ‘political’ and power-orientated the struggle becomes, and the more destructive its impact. How to Manage Conflict - Salvation Army Canada

A common form of conflict in churches are power struggles - people will take sides with the leader/worker that they personally support.

The following thoughts to help us pay attention to issues of power is taken from Positive Working Together


Being aware of how our power over others is communicated (in whatever way that power is manifest) and taking measures to ensure that such power is not misused or abused (for example, not using our position to preclude theological or other perspectives which are different from our own, thus subtly undermining others).

How we treat one another

Being careful about how we exercise power, particularly where this is related to our position or office, potentially leading to spiritual bullying, where God is invoked to legitimise a form of behaviour.

How we manage information

Being aware of the power associated with possessing information.

Embracing difference

Accepting that power is distributed unequally between different groups in society and behaving in ways which are sensitive to this fact.

Managing conflict through caring challenge

It is important to begin with a process of self examination. Why am I seeking to confront this individual? What power relationships are taking place in this relationship? Do I see behaviours in this person which are in my own personality, but which I am not prepared to acknowledge or examine? How can I make the other person feel safe and valued? These are all difficult questions but are essential in ensuring that a good interaction takes place.

For more on the importance on where to have conversations about conflict, getting the facts right in any given situation, depersonalising the matter and more visit pages 16–18 of Positive Working Together report

For more information on training, and other resources please visit Positive Working Together

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