A rushing river is fed by many smaller streams of various sizes. And, so it is with personal and church conflict. Rarely is there a singular event or issue that can be pointed to as the source of a conflict. In most church conflicts there are many contributing factors, some more impactful and challenging than others.
The RIVERS acronym is a helpful tool to identify the various streams that can feed a conflict and create a rushing river. Typically some combination of these 6 issues comprise most church conflicts: Relationships, Information, Values, Entrenchment, Resources and Structures.
Identify the Issues Involved in the Conflict
Identifying the issues involved in a disagreement is a good starting point for addressing the conflict. A strategy for dealing with each issue can then be developed. Examining each of these 6 issues as potential sources will insure a comprehensive approach to resolving or mitigating the conflict, as well as minimize the likelihood of addressing only the symptoms rather than the cause.
Relationships: Who exactly is involved in the conflict? How many people are aware of the conflict and will require communication? Is triangulation involved, where a third party is being used to influence the conflict?
Information: Did formal or informal information sharing contribute to the conflict? Typical formal communication sources include announcements, sermons, church bulletins, newsletters, social media and websites. Informal sources include information shared with individuals or groups through email, prayer lists and “the grapevine.” Clarify if it is misinformation or misinterpretation of information.
Values: Are differing values a potential source of the conflict? Some examples might include social or political issues, Scripture and theology interpretation, building programs, borrowing money, and such things as church priorities, policies and processes.
Entrenchment: Are entrenched positions a potential source of the conflict? Typically, entrenched positions center around self and special interests, such as worship styles and times, the church calendar, denominational support, and sacred cow programs and events.
Resources: The church has a limited amount of human, financial and physical resources and are therefore a ripe source for conflict. Is the allocation of those resources a potential source of the conflict? Some examples might include decisions related to budget, offering and designated gift allocations, leadership position selection, and room and furnishings assignments.
Structures: Are misunderstandings or disagreements around church structures a potential source of the conflict? Examples might include the staff organization structure, church governance or committee structure, and the church’s decision making structure.
Frequently in church conflict there are hidden issues that contribute to the conflict. Running a conflict through the RIVERS acronym helps to identify all the potential streams that go into making up the river of conflict you are facing.
Posted on January 24, 2017