Dealing with Conflict Between Yourself and a Student

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.

The Hardest Person to Lead

In leadership, the hardest person to lead is not other people, but it is ourselves. We can see that even Paul faced the frustration of trying to lead himself well. In Romans 7:15, Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Even though Paul faced the struggle of trying to lead himself well, he knew the importance of leading himself well and what was at stake if he did not. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” We too, need to understand the importance of leading ourselves well and realizing what is at stake if we do not.

Personal commitments determine the direction I lead myself. The direction I lead myself determines how I lead others.

From the statement above, we see that personal commitments is the starting place of leading ourselves well. The results of leading ourselves well is being able to lead others well. In order to lead yourself well, you must be committed to six things:

1. Commitment to love Christ supremely (Matthew 22:37). In Christian leadership, it’s easy to fall in love with the work of Christ more than the person of Christ. We must make sure we love Christ more than everything, even ministry! Our commitment to love Christ supremely is the foundation and driving force to all other commitments. Without it we become legalistic.

2. Commitment to unwavering integrity (Proverbs 10:9). Is there an area of your life, if brought into light, would damage your testimony? In his book, Being Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs says that people don’t follow ministry’s mission or vision statement for very long, they follow you. Personal integrity is the foundation to leadership.

3. Commitment to live a disciplined life (Proverbs 6:6-9). One of the most neglected areas of many Christians life’s, especially Christian leaders, is physical discipline. We focus so much time on”spiritual disciplines,” which are important, we neglect physical discipline. We don’t take care of ourselves physically the way we should. We must commit to spiritual disciplines and physical disciplines.

4. Commitment to having a teachable spirit (Proverbs 19:20). Part of leading yourself well is being able to stay teachable. Once a leader a leader stops learning and growing, their leadership will level out. Leaders must intentionally seek Godly counsel, surround themselves with leaders who are better than them in certain areas, respond graciously to criticism, and read good books.

5. Commitment to personal accountability (Proverbs 27:17). You cannot lead yourself well alone. You cannot remain focused spiritually alone. You cannot live a holy life alone. You need accountability in your life! Who in your life asks you the “hard question”” or will tell you the honest truth? Awhile back, I wrote a post called “How Leaders Can Prevent Moral Failure BEFORE it Happens” and in that post I said one of the best ways to prevent moral failure in leadership is to have accountability in your life. The leader who does not have accountability in their life is asking for the enemy and their flesh to destroy their leadership position.

6. Commitment to push outside of your comfort zone (Matthew 14:29). Often, leaders tend to settle. Leaders must have a God-sized dream for their ministry or organization. A good question to ask yourself to see if you have a God-sized dream or not is this: Do you have it all figured out, or does your dream push you to your knees in prayer?

It’s important leaders take these commitments serious. Until leaders learn how to lead themselves well, they will always struggle at leading others well.

I do not take credit for the majority of these thoughts. Majority of this post comes from a workshop lead by Chris Finchum at a recent Word of Life Associate School Conference. You can find Chris on Twitter @chrisfinchum.