Today I (along with many other Methodist clergy in my conference) attended a teaching session presented by Susan Nienaber, Senior Consultant with the Alban Institute, entitled "Understanding and Preventing the Escalation of Conflict in Your Church." It was very informative. She is a very good communicator and teacher.
I really found Nieraber's list of the sources of conflict that churches experience helpful. Here is the list:
1) People Disagree About Values and Beliefs.
2) The Structure is Unclear.
3) The Pastor's Roles and Responsibilities are in Conflict.
4) The Structure No Longer Fits the Size of the Congregation.
5) Clergy and Lay Leadership Styles Don't Mesh.
6) A New Pastor Rushes Into Changes.
7) Communication Lines are Blocked.
8) Church Members Manage Conflict Poorly.
9) Disaffected Members Hold Back Participation and Pledges.
10) Poor Internal Accountability Structures.
11) Subtle Boundary Violations.
12) Confusion Between Transparency and Confidentiality.
13) Inappropriate Use of Email.
Everyone around the room seemed to be very familiar with most of these.