Learning from Conflict

A few years ago, I was leading a high school retreat and I had a wonderful team of leaders who were making it happen. The retreat was going very well and the youth participants were all engaged in the experience. In spite of the great leadership, there were still some issues that needed to be addressed with the team.

I was informed that one member of the leadership team was putting some unrealistic expectations on her planning team. This particular leader had high expectations and was putting tremendous pressure on her team to perform their tasks at a high level of competence. This leader even threatened to kick a person out of the planning process. Moral was low and that team was not having any fun. Leading a retreat, although work, was meant to be a fun experience for the leaders. That was cleary not the case. A conversation had to be had with this particular team leader. And as the coordinator, that was my task.

As I thought about how the conversation needed to go, I thought to myself, “Should I just be brutally honest and up front and tell her that she needs to shape up?” After praying about it, I decided the best route was to confront her that night, sit down and have a conversation. I first asked her to tell me her perspective. She was under pressure. She felt stressed. She naturally let that out on the team. I understood her perspective, but then told her the honest truth: her team was not having fun, morale was low, and something needed to change. As the team leader, it was her responsibility to make that change. She was tremendously responsive to my feedback and we created an action plan for her to pursue with her team the next day. I let her know that I had her back if she needed help to make things right with her team. She did not have to deal with this alone.

I learned a couple things from this experience:

  1. I CAN handle conflict and sticky situations.
  2. Conflict should be handled immediately and not wait until later.
  3. Understanding the other persons perspective is key. This means I need to listen first. Because I listened first, she was able to listen to my feedback.
  4. Pastoral honesty is needed in all conflict situations. I had to break the truth to her in a way that she could hear.
  5. I am always on the same team with the person I confront. An understanding that we are going to fix the situation together is a much better approach then leaving the leader out on the ledge alone.

Have a perfected my conflict resolution? Certainly not. However, these lessons will help me continue to deal with conflict in a way that continues to put the mission of our ministry and God first.

So, what effective ways do you use to deal with conflict?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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