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Developing peacebuilders to manage conflicts in churches

by Staff

Photo: Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba conference minister, Keith Poysti, organizes the second of four workshops in MBCM’s Church Unity Project.

Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (MBCM) invites pastors and church leaders to a two-day workshop that offers training in communications skills and conflict management.

Workshop participants will receive training in effective communication from Brian Strom, director of the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution. This workshop, “Communication: Giving and Receiving Feedback,” will take place Sept. 20 and 21 at MBCM’s office in Winnipeg.

Communicating so that the intended message is received is an art form, one that the MBCM is seeking to teach pastors and church leaders.

This workshop is designed for Mennonite Brethren pastors and church leaders who are peacebuilders – those gifted in conflict management and transformation.

Peacebuilding, as understood by MBCM, is based on the Hebrew word shalom, which indicates God’s desire for the wellbeing of his people. Developing peacebuilders in churches is a way to facilitate “positive action so that the mission of Christ can proceed,” says Keith Poysti, MBCM conference minister.

Attendees will gain skills to deescalate conflicts and bring groups into consensus. Through this training MBCM is building capacity with individuals in churches to “have resident resources to help address conflict.”

Poysti explains “that pastors and moderators are often a touchstone for issues that can cause conflict, such as theological questions or differences of opinion.” MBCM hopes the workshop will transform participants into peacebuilders who are not intimidated by diversity.

The foci of the workshop are to: understand the difference between intentions and results, explain the use of “I” language and non-verbal signals, learn how to give feedback without escalating conflict, and provide strategies for dealing with high emotions.

Poysti himself has learned conflict resolution skills through courses, reading, and personal experience mediating conflicts. He hopes that this workshop will create and equip shalom people who “have the confidence that they can tackle difficult issues” and can communicate so that the message intended is the message received.

This workshop is one of four in MBCM’s Church Unity Project, which seeks to empower and build capacity in churches to resolve disagreements peacefully. Each workshop is anchored in biblically based teachings and is based on conflicts that typically occur in church life.

The first workshop, which took place last January, focused on principles that build peace. Future workshops will focus on mediation and group processes. Details about these workshops will be announced on the MBCM website.

Ellen Paulley is the communications coordinator for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches.

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