Conflict: Bring it on!
Reflection from 2017 Central Alum Elizabeth Buckner, Pastor of Dearborn Christian Church, Dearborn, Missouri, who participated in the Buttry Center Training for Conflict Transformation Trainers this summer at Central.
I have never loved conflict. I have never been one to seek it out, and I definitely have never been one to welcome conflict with open arms. That is, until I attended Sharon and Dan Buttry’s Training for Conflict Transformation Trainers (TCTT) in August 2018.
I still may not “love” conflict, but I no longer feel the dreaded red-alert urgency that I did when I encounter conflict. For me, conflict is now an opportunity to engage the skills I learned under my intrepid leaders and through the engagement of my authentic cohort.
I am a regular guest speaker at North Platte High School’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). TCTT tools have helped me engage these high schoolers through creative mixers, focused topics, and elicit lists. We especially love doing the mixer that has the students walk by themselves, find a partner to pretend they are on a motorcycle, form into groups of three to be in an imaginary tuk-tuk, or groups of four for a car, or groups of six to be in a minivan. We enjoy this mixer because it is energetic and allows me to stop the mixer when I have them in the size group I desire.
This month we discussed listening to God. We began with an exercise I did during my training that emphasizes the need for being specific when giving directions to those who are listening. This exercise generated emphatic and concerned comments from the students. Surprisingly, I find the “elicit lists” to be the tool that helps me best drive the topic home. Before I went deep I began by having them tell me what maximizes and minimizes their listening in the classroom. The teacher sponsors enthusiastically added their observations to the list, too. We discussed each side. Then I asked the students what on the list was the same as what maximized or minimized their listening to God. We circled those so we could see how these lists overlap. Creating the list and circling the common answers solidified their connections to the lesson.
In the coming months my church begins discussions on what changes we want to make happen by our 135th anniversary which is two years away. Church and change don’t pair well, but with my training I look confidently to our future, because I have learned that conflict is an opportunity for transformation. By seeking conflict transformation, not simply conflict resolution, we will continue to be the church our community needs for many more years to come. My prayer is that our community will be transformed, my church will be transformed, and I will be transformed through this process. For the work of the Church and the mission of Christ, I now gladly welcome conflict with open arms.