Congregational Conflict: Increasing or Decreasing?

recent post noted that congregational conflict is relatively common. Has that always been true? We asked a similar sample of pastors about congregational conflict in 2001. Let’s see what was going on back then.

Conflict is somewhat more common today. In 2001, three in ten pastors saw no conflict in their congregation. By the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, the proportion decreased to two in ten. The good news is that most pastors who see conflict describe it as minor.

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More conflict about the congregation’s finances. In only one area did reports of conflict increase substantially—congregational finances. That’s not surprising given that the second survey took place at the beginning of the recent recession. With the worsening economy, many congregations have faced financial difficulties, and those struggles can often lead to disagreements.

Less conflict about worship. Fewer pastors now recount conflict related to changes in worship or music styles. Have congregations ceased exploring variety or new elements in worship? That’s unlikely. In fact, in the 2008/2009 survey, two in ten congregations reported starting a new worship service in the previous five years, and almost as many changed the style of a worship service. Yet financial issues lead to more conflict these days.

Leadership remains a common topic of conflict. The pastor’s leadership style topped the list of conflict sources in 2001, as it does today. Nonetheless, large majorities of pastors (89%) and worshipers (85%) agree that the pastor is a good match for the congregation.

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