Change and Conflict in Your Congregation (Even If You Hate Both): How to Implement Conscious Choices, Manage Emotions and Build a Thriving Christian Community

A warmhearted guidebook to help your church navigate change and channel conflict into a stronger sense of mission and community. Lay leaders, pastors and church staff will be empowered by creative, practical strategies to establish appropriate congregational behavior, offer nonanxious leadership and foster community discussion and discernment.

Rev. Anita L. Bradshaw, PhD

6 x 9, 176 pp | 978-1-59473-578-3

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With a positive theology of change, we can live as Christians known not for disagreements or self-interest, but for our love through difficulty.

“When congregations can move forward from conflict, weather change well and allow ourselves to move beyond old and outdated stories, then we are able to create a new story for our future.... Do we dare to ask God to lead us to a new place?”

—from the Benediction

Change and conflict are often feared in churches—but they don’t need to be. When we learn to see these difficulties as normal, healthy parts of being a community, it is much easier to navigate them with a minimum of anxiety and bad behavior. We are able to let go of our fears and face change and conflict as catalysts for moving forward in the mission of showing God’s love and justice to the world. In fact, there is no way to move forward in mission without change and conflict.

This warmhearted guidebook will help your church navigate change and channel conflict into deeper understanding and a stronger sense of community. Lay leaders, pastors and church staff will be empowered by creative, easy-to-implement strategies to:

  • Establish appropriate congregational behavior and communication
  • Practice nonanxious leadership in the midst of upheaval
  • Foster productive community discussion and discernment
  • Manage a community’s tendency to polarize disagreements
  • Encourage imaginative thinking and creative responses to difficult situations
  • Replace a congregation’s discouraging self-image with an empowering vision for ministry

“Provides a great map for navigating congregational change.... Bridge[s] theory and practice in a way that will empower most congregations.... A real gift to the church.”

Bruce Reyes-Chow, church consultant and leadership coach

“A welcome gift to every congregation that wants to be strong and vital.... This certainly will be required reading for my seminary students!”

Rev. C. K. Robertson, PhD, canon to the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; author, A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo but Taught Us to Live Like Jesus and other books

“Thoughtful and well researched.... Articulates a hope-filled vision for congregational transformation.”

Rev. Cameron Trimble, executive director and CEO, Center for Progressive Renewal

“With great wisdom and insight ... shows us the benefits of our struggles. With skillful navigation ... help[s] us to transform our ranting and fear into the blessings of change.”

Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, author, Tribal Church; columnist, Christian Century

“Practical theology at its best.... Deeply informed.... All this comes together for the good of practicing clergy and real live (and therefore conflicted) congregations. I strongly recommend this book.”

David Bartlett, PhD, Lantz Professor of Preaching emeritus, Yale Divinity School; distinguished professor of New Testament emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Excellent.... Helps us see conflict and change [as] indispensable parts of the journey toward congregational vitality and renewal. I look forward to using it with my students.”

Rev. John H. Thomas, former general minister and president, United Church of Christ; visiting professor of church studies and senior advisor to the president, Chicago Theological Seminary

“Brief, eloquent, pragmatic, inviting, encouraging and deeply adaptive in the best sense of the word, this short, theologically astute gem of a book should be on every pastoral leader’s bookshelf.”

Mary Hess, PhD, professor of educational leadership and chair, leadership division, Luther Seminary

“Expect wise counsel, down-to-earth strategies that work and invitations to honest conversation. This book is for anyone who loves their church and wants to help it thrive.”

Rev. Matt Rosine, national staff of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

“Prepares congregational leaders with the faithful courage required for today’s church.”

Rev. David Schoen, minister and team leader, Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement, United Church of Christ

“Visionary and engaging ways to navigate ... change and conflict. This accessible, practical, intelligent, disarmingly honest book will be one I reach for often.”

Rev. Dr. Lucy A. Forster-Smith, author, College & University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: A Multifaith Look at the Practice of Ministry on Campuses across America

“Brings calm clarity to the turbulent topic of conflict that congregations struggle with.... A welcome and hopeful message.”

Rev. Laurie Miller Vischer, associate pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Portland, Oregon

“With spiritual sensitivity, affection and respect for congregational life ... offers important approaches to change and conflict that are resourceful, creatively imaginative and life-giving. Goes beyond a ‘how-to’ to become a compelling read.”

Rev. Dr. Barbara T. Cheney, missional pastor, St. James Episcopal Church, New Haven, Connecticut

“Faithful, honest and hopeful.... A well-written, deeply informed source of solid advice based on hard-won experience, a gift to anyone who shares her love for communities of faith.”

Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, executive director, Bautistas por la Paz (Baptist Peace Fellowship)

“I wish my church would read this book. Immediately. Twice. And no churchgoer needs to read it more than I do.... A calm, plainspoken, practical guide.”

John Backman, author, Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart

“Where was this book when I started out in ministry?... More than a self-help book for congregations to navigate through their challenges—this is a theologically based, vision-centered approach to transform leadership toward gospel service.”

David Haas, liturgical composer; director, Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry; campus minister, Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul, Minnesota; director, Music Ministry Alive!

“Provides pathways for reconciliation that are universal. Bradshaw’s years of experience with conflict management in congregations were comforting and strengthening; I felt I was in good hands.”

Rev. Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship (UU), Boston

“Anita Bradshaw has done it! As a thoroughly engaging storyteller, she’s written an amazingly accessible guide for your congregation’s pilgrimage through inevitable change and conflict.”

Rev. Dr. Gary M. Simpson, Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary Chair in Theology, Luther Seminary