When a church experiences conflict, the results can be terribly painful: couples divorce, families and friends are divided, and in extreme cases, a church may split, and our witness for Christ is lost.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Many churches have embraced a 'Culture of Peace,' where members truly live out the gospel in their relationships and where the blessings of peace follow: strengthened marriages and families, healthier churches, and a thriving, gospel-centered ministry. Building a Culture of Peace doesn't happen overnight, though. It's a journey, and Peacemaker Ministries is here to accompany your church every step of the way.
So how does your church begin this journey toward a Culture of Peace? There are three primary components to building biblical peacemaking into the very fiber of your church:
How does this work in practice? Let's walk through some specific steps your church can take to begin the process of building a culture of peace:
All the people in your church—leaders and members alike—should learn the basic principles of biblical peacemaking. This teaching will help to drive home the powerful and practical principles of peacemaking as your church begins to learn to deal with conflict in a healthy and God-honoring way. In addition, it will give your church a common "language" for addressing conflict that will prove helpful in the future as you navigate new issues as a church.
The simplest way begin this teaching phase is go through the Resolving Everyday Conflict small group study as a church. If your church doesn't have an active small group ministry, this is a great opportunity to start one!
In addition to studying Resolving Everyday Conflict, your church may also want to consider:
A sermon series dedicated to the topic of biblical peacemaking.
This can be done at the same time as the group study for an effective "campaign"-style emphasis on relationships and conflict. Your pastor may want to develop these sermons on his own, or alternatively, we've created eight sample sermons
(including full text, outline only, and sample bulletin inserts).
Studying any of the books and other resources from Peacemaker Ministries
in other common settings in your church—Sunday school classes, youth groups, women's Bible studies, missions teams, etc.
Ultimately, peacemaking won't be a part of what you do as a church until the leaders of your church embrace a vision for it. They don't have to do all the work by any means, but it's only if they are engaged that they can truly lead and inspire the congregation toward God's vision for unity and peace.
One great way to engage the leaders is through The Leadership Opportunity, Peacemaker Ministries group study designed specifically for church leaders. This study helps leaders navigate those tricky areas of church life where leadership intersects with conflict. In fourteen lessons, it addresses a wide range of topics such as shepherd leadership, unity on the leadership team, change, church discipline, and more. This study is available as both a DVD-based study as well as in an online e-learning format.
If going through an entire study as a leadership team is too great an investment right now, we'd still encourage you/your leaders to listen to the following short talks from Ken Sande that give an introduction to the vision for a culture of peace in a church (printable version of the notes):
If you want peacemaking to be a ongoing and vital part of your church life, then you should treat it like any other area of ministry in your church (like youth, nursery, men's ministry, etc.)—start a team that's dedicated to doing the work. As passionate and gifted members of your church step up to be a part of a peacemaking team, they can provide the manpower to keep the ministry going.
The peacemaking team will primarily serve in two ways:
- Teaching. The team helps to "embed" biblical peacemaking into the life of the church by ongoing teaching to new members classes, pre-married classes, mission teams, and anywhere else that it's appropriate.
- Assisting. The peacemaking team will be skilled in assisting others who are in the midst of conflict and struggling to work through it in a God-glorifying way. Often this assistance will be as informal as casual input and advice to one individual over a cup of coffee. At other times, it might be more formal, working with several individuals together to help them be reconciled in a God-glorifying way.
For more information about starting a peacemaking team, visit the team page on this website. We also encourage you to download the Team Starter Kit -- a free set of materials to help you get started with a peacemaking team at your church.