Conflict Engagement for CoMs

Part of COM Guide

By Sana Saeed

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Responsibilities for Committees on Ministries (CoMs) vary and no one size fits all. But, while you are on a CoM you may have to engage conflict, whether it is something that comes up within the CoM or with other members or groups of the congregation. It’s one of the responsibilities given to many CoMs in our congregations, which can be intimidating, challenging and also rewarding for committee members. Part of this responsibility includes modeling healthy communication and healthy boundaries, especially as some congregants may use the CoM to triangulate you as a committee. So, it is worth being aware of unhealthy communication patterns and ways to name boundaries.

Conflict Transformation Skills

We recommend that members of a CoM take trainings on developing or strengthening your conflict transformation skills. Conflict skills are part of the UUA recommended leadership development competencies.

Some conflict skills include:

  • Understanding the difference between unhealthy and creative conflict.
  • Being able to diffuse unhealthy conflict.
  • Being able to be present to and engage in healthy conflict.
  • Understanding your own personality type and the ways you engage conflict by taking a personality test (e.g. Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Keirsey, etc.).
  • Knowing your own conflict style in various contexts (at church, home, work, one-on-one with people vs groups etc…).
  • Understanding your own biases.
  • Being aware of the trauma you carry. Will there be a situation that the CoM has to work on that may be triggering for you? What type of support and self-care plan will you have if your trauma was to be triggered by a conflict or situation on the CoM? Who is part of your community care to call upon when you need to talk to someone?
  • An awareness of the conflict transformation resources that are available to you from the UUA and also within your congregation, such as your right relationship team or conflict resolution team (if you have one).

Here are some conflict engagement ideas to get you started as a CoM

  • Take a Right Relationship Team training or have your right relationship team do a training for the CoM
  • If you don’t have a right relationship team, think about connecting with one in a neighboring congregation
  • Congregations who do conflict well are mid-size, have differentiated roles, practice disappointing each other, and practice covenant maintenance
    • Covenant maintenance is the regular practice of returning to your covenant as a congregation to make changes or updates as congregation needs
    • Ask who is responsible for helping people be accountable to the covenant, as they could be your partner on conflict engagement work within the congregation.
    • If you don’t have a congregational covenant, think about recommending to the board of appointing a team to create a covenant.

Gifts for This Task

  • Compassionate listener
  • People who have conflict engagement skills and trainings
  • People who are trusted by others
  • People are who are willing to take conflict transformation trainings and do the work to learn about their own conflict styles and approach

Key Take-Aways

  • Conflict engagement can be challenging, but also rewarding
  • Conflict engagement requires engaging in healthy communication and modeling healthy boundaries
  • There are conflict transformation resources offered by the UUA, ask your regional contact
  • Covenants are important to conflict engagement work as they name both promises and boundaries of how people are to stay in relationship

About the Author

Sana Saeed

Rev. Sana Saeed is the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA since July. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity...

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