Friday, March 12, 2010

How To Deal With Violent Conflict as a Christian Leader: #1 Create A Safe Place

If being a Christian leader means loving our enemies and acting with benefit for all, how can we possibly protect all people when there is violence? How can we prevent harm from happening?

The most basic principle is that we need to realize that we cannot, ourselves, prevent all harm to those under us. Everyone, ultimately, is in the hands of God, and there can and will be harm done at times. For this reason, we must pray for protection for those under our care. And we must pray for the Holy Spirit to create peace in the place where we minister. Ultimately, it is up to God to create a place that is safe for everyone.

But there are things we can do, in the midst of being Christ-like that would provide protection, while causing to harm to anyone. Below are step by step ways to prevent violence in our places of worship and service, where we can practice our love of our neighbor.

First of all, in whatever context we are in, whether worship, service or benevolence, we need to let it be known that this is a place of safety for everyone. That our church is going to be a place in which everyone has the opportunity to be safe, which means that no one will be allowed to participate in actions that harm others, whether a church leader, a church member, a guest, a police officer or anyone else. All are to follow the same rules of safety.
In that, the church needs to adopt a set of simple rules that will allow the most basic level of safety and respect to others. Anawim—our church of the homeless and the mentally ill— and their programs have adopted five simple rules that everyone can remember and respect, especially in a church setting. Our rules are these:
1. No threats or violence
This includes not only the acting out of harm, but the verbal or non-verbal threat of harm.
2. No illegal drugs or alcohol on the premises
This allows those who are inebriated to participate in services, as long as they abide by the other rules. But the church is not to be a place in which one becomes inebriated.
3. No stealing or borrowing other’s possessions without permission
4. No sexual harassment
This allows all members of the community to feel safe from unwelcome sexual advances, whether verbal or non verbal.
5. No blasphemy
This is out of respect of the Owner of the property as well as the community that manages it. This is not a rule against low brow language, but rather using God’s name in a demeaning way.
If the rules are simple, then they can be remembered. Also, they should make sense to people that the rules would be imposed in any of God’s sanctuaries, not special to that facility.

Finally, to build a context of safety in the building, there must be trust built between the leaders of every service and those who are participating in it. This means that the leaders should attempt to get to know all the regulars of the service, so that if the rules need be enforced, there is a relationship on which one can build such enforcement on. If there is a place of communication and trust between the leadership and the participants, then when conflict does occur, then the leadership will know immediately and will be called upon to help deal with it. If no trust is built, then the leadership will be the last place where those involved in or observing conflict will go to, because they fear how the leadership will deal with conflict.

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