If you have been a student pastor or youth worker for a good stretch of time, you probably had to deal with some conflict between yourself and a student. This past week at camp, for the first time, I dealt with some major conflict between myself and one of my students. I will not go into the story in detail here on my blog, but let’s just say the students crossed major lines of respect and authority with me and it resulted in major conflict between us. I am still young and learning so I don’t claim to have handled this situation totally correct, but I feel I did do some things right and would like to share those with you in hope they will help you deal with conflict. Like I said, this is for conflict between yourself, the student pastor or youth worker, and a student.
Before I share some practical advice, let me just say this: conflict is not always a bad thing. It might seem bad at the time, but God uses conflict and the way we handle it to mature us as Christians and youth workers. Chris Finchum says, “Your discipleship ministry will never go deeper than your ability to have difficult conversations.” Conflict will happen and even though it’s hard, we must handle it the right way. So here are some ways to do just that:
1. Try and talk through it with the students personally. Before you do anything, talk to the student about the conflict. Share with him what the conflict is all about. Allow handling the conflict to mature him not only yourself. Many times, the conflict will be resolved when you approach the student and talk to them one on one about what is going on. But sometimes, and this is where I found myself last week, the conflict does not get resolved when you talk to the students so you may need to take it another step which is talk to the parents.
2. Talk to the parents of the student involved. At the end of the day, parents are responsible for their children. The Bible give them the responsibility of raising their children in the Lord as well as disciplining them when they need it. The last thing you need is there to be conflict between yourself and a students and have the parents know nothing about it. In my case, the parent needed to know their child broke several rules and needed to be the ones to correct their child because they were not listening to me. The most frustrating thing about being a student pastor is when the parents aren’t doing their job at home which makes your job near impossible.
3. Inform the senior pastor about the conflict. One of the most dangeruous things you can do is have conflict between yourself and a student and not let your senior pastor know what is going on. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t have to know every little conflict that goes on in the student ministry, but when it comes to major conflict, he needs to be informed. In my case, it was a must to inform him because if anything was twisted around in the story I knew my senior pastor would have my back because I informed him on the conflict.
4. Don’t allow it to steal your focus on whats important. If your not careful, you will allow one conflict between one student steal your focus on all the other students. Satan wants nothing more than to steal your focus and get you off track so don’t allow a conflict to do that. Take the necessary steps to dealing with conflict and leave the results up to God. Then get back to serving and ministering to your students.
These are just a few of the ways I am learning how to deal with conflict between myself and a student. I’m sure there are other practical ways to deal with it that I failed to mentioned so fee free to leave a comment and add your thoughts.