Christian conciliation is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ intersects with four distinct disciplines: 1) alternative dispute resolution processes, 2) biblical counseling or coaching, 3) education, and 4) consulting. Christian conciliation services are useful in both intervening in conflict situations and also in preventing future conflict.
Christian conciliation is a process for helping people resolve relational and substantive conflicts in a way that honors God, promotes reconciliation, and helps restore hurting and broken relationships. A distinctive of Christian conciliation is the emphasis on addressing the underlying causes of conflict (James 4:1). Christian conciliation is also an effective solution for helping keep material or substantive disputes out of court. The process is conciliatory rather than adversarial, and promotes honest communication and cooperation in accordance with biblical principles. The outcomes belong to the parties, but the conciliators bear the responsibility for providing an effective process.
Christian conciliation services span a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, services closely resemble intensive, biblical counseling. On the other end of the spectrum, services closely resemble a legally enforceable alternative dispute resolution process. Regardless, the goal in structuring the service is to best meet the needs of the individuals involved in the conflict. Therefore, the same biblical principles contained within the Guidelines for Christian Conciliation apply.
Renewal Conciliation Services (RCS) most often provides conciliation services that resemble the intensive, biblical counseling process. The optional “care team” concept utilized by RCS has proven to be a valuable contribution to conciliation outcomes, regardless of the type of conflict. A care team is specifically recruited from local individuals who are in a position to advance their learning about biblical peacemaking and who are willing to make a commitment to provide follow up care for the conflicted individuals, often as a team managed by a team “captain.” The care team surrounds all of the struggling parties and provides up to twelve months of encouragement, accountability, and support. Care teams are comprised of wise, mature, and faithful individuals who benefit from pre-conciliation training and post-conciliation support by RCS.
Christian conciliation promotes biblical values, preserves relationships, encourages transformation in the likeness of Christ, avoids negative publicity, and is relatively inexpensive. In addition, when compared to litigation, Christian conciliation is less constrained by rigid procedures, thus often allowing more creative remedies and faster results. Christian conciliation is especially beneficial for people who sincerely want to do what is right and are open to learning where they may have been wrong. Conciliators can help them to identify improper attitudes or unwise practices, to understand more fully the effects of their decisions and actions, and to make personal changes that will help prevent unnecessary conflict in the future.
Christian conciliation services depend on effective case management to educate the parties about the services and facilitate the preparation and planning. Initially, parties may receive individual coaching on how to resolve a dispute personally and privately using biblical principles. If private efforts are unsuccessful, the parties may request mediation, a voluntary process in which one or more conciliators help promote self-examination and redemptive dialogue, as well as to encourage and facilitate reconciliation. Finally, if mediation is unsuccessful and the issues are substantive in nature, the parties may proceed to arbitration, which means that one or more arbitrators will hear their case and render a legally binding decision. RCS does not provide arbitration services and recommends the Institute for Christian Conciliation to seek those services.
Christian conciliation has been used to settle a wide variety of disputes, including marriage, family, church, school, ministry team, and other types of relational conflicts. In cases of corporate or business disputes, the monetary claims in these cases have ranged from nothing to several million dollars. Conflicts resolved through Christian conciliation can include the following types of situations:
child sexually abused by a family member
teachers in conflict with parents, other teachers, or their students
spouse committed adultery
leadership in a Christian organization or school in conflict with other organizational stakeholders
mission’s team split into two factions over purpose and leadership issues
complaints filed against pastors or church leaders
family conflict between parents and children
family business disputes threaten to destroy a family
pastor and elder board conflicts over mission and vision of the church
friends experienced conflict and were unable to work through the issues
Christian conciliation fees range from $50 to $250/hour, depending on the education and experience level of the conciliator. Most often, RCS conciliators work in teams of two when providing mediation. Some conciliators-in-training serve on a volunteer basis. In cases of financial hardship, RCS works with the parties to develop a manageable payment plan, and, in some cases, are able to offer discounted services.
The parties and the conciliators must agree at the outset that, with few exceptions, the conciliators will not be asked to divulge information outside of the conciliation process, with the exception being that conciliators may be in contact with the appropriate ecclesiastical leaders of the parties' churches. In particular, conciliators may not be subpoenaed to testify in subsequent legal proceedings. The parties are required to commit to not divulging information (including any written Summaries detailing the important conversations that occurred during the conciliation process) to people who do not have a necessary and legitimate interest in the conflict. When all parties agree, confidentiality can be set aside for the purposes of informing others about the conciliation process outcome.
It is not unusual for people to have questions or feel apprehensive about using Christian conciliation. Parties are encouraged to read The Peacemaker or Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande, and to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to discuss the services. RCS case managers often help reluctant parties work through their concerns. Previous parties in a conciliation process are available to share their testimonies about their experience.
If one party refuses to consent to conciliation, we encourage the initiating party to continue to pray, seek the assistance of their church leaders, receive conflict coaching from a qualified conciliator, and continue to encourage the other party to work with his or her church and reconsider their decision.
The length of a conciliation process depends on the complexity of the issues and the schedules of the participants. Once all parties have agreed to the process, signed the necessary agreements, and completed the preparation assignments, conciliation meetings are scheduled as soon as possible and range from a few hours, to several days, to even more than a week.
Christian conciliation services are provided by different kinds of people who have received education and training through a number of organizations qualified to train conciliators. In addition, Christian conciliators may be certified through the Institute for Christian Conciliation (http://www.iccpeace.com/certification.html). Professional and lay counselors, attorneys, pastors, elders, peacemaking team members, teachers, and business people are just some of the types of individuals who serve as conciliators. At RCS, all staff members are Christian conciliators and network with others who have received training in Christian conciliation while possessing the education, experience, gifting, and skills that make them among the best Christian conciliators available.
Christian conciliators assist others in resolving or preventing conflict. When intervening in conflict situations, a conciliator often serves as a case manager, conflict coach, mediator, or arbitrator. When working in situations designed to prevent future conflict, or to promote a culture of peace in a church, family, ministry, or organization, a conciliator often serves as an educator or consultant.
After consulting with the parties, the case manager will nominate one or more Christian conciliators whose experience and qualifications are best suited to serve the parties. While most cases are handled by at least two conciliators, it is not uncommon for RCS to request the involvement of a third conciliator-in-training at little or no additional charge, especially if the conciliation participants number more than ten. Church leaders and/or mentors are included in the conciliation process when at all possible since experience has shown that equipping a care team to provide follow-up care after the conciliation process dramatically improves the final outcomes. In some cases, other individuals who are suited to help resolve the particular dispute might also be included (e.g. if a dispute involves the construction of a building, one member of the panel may be an architect or contractor). All non-party participants are approved by all of the parties and the case manager.
Since conciliators are guided by both Scripture and the Holy Spirit, they should be especially sensitive to God's command to be impartial: "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly" (Lev. 19:15). As they seek God's guidance to obey this command, Christian conciliators are less likely to show favoritism than are secular mediators, arbitrators, or judges and jurors in civil court.
Christian conciliators hold to the four distinctives of Christian conciliation: 1) the centrality of Christ; 2) the comprehensiveness of God’s Word; 3) the authority of the local church; and 4) the necessity of biblical counseling. As a result, Christian conciliators do not view themselves as having ecclesiastical authority in the lives of those they serve. Rather, Christian conciliators respect and affirm the authority of church leadership in the lives of its members. When conciliators challenge church leaders’ attitudes, words, or actions, it is done with gentleness and respect while looking to God’s Word as the ultimate authority in how believers are to conduct themselves.
When parties are encouraged to invite and approve the inclusion of appropriate church leaders into the conciliation process, these non-parties are educated by RCS as to their role, and commit to confidentiality in writing.
Christian conciliation is more values-oriented than most other types of mediation. With that being said, religion is not forced upon anyone. Parties are treated with respect and consideration regarding their personal faith decisions.
While all mediators work to help parties come to a voluntary settlement, many secular mediators are reluctant to go “deeper,” especially if doing so would require that they evaluate others' attitudes and behavior from a moral perspective. In contrast, Christian conciliators make it a point to draw out the underlying reasons for conflict, sometimes referred to as "matters of the heart." Believing that God has established timeless moral principles that he has recorded in Scripture and written on our hearts, Christian conciliators will draw the parties' attention to attitudes, motives, or actions that appear to be inconsistent with those standards. This will be especially true with parties who profess to be Christians. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ will be encouraged to obey His commands and behave in a manner that will honor Him.
Most importantly, Christian conciliation focuses not only on what we should do ("law") but also on what God has done and is doing for those who trust in him ("gospel"). God has forgiven our sins and made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son (Rom. 6:23; 1 Pet. 3:18). As a result, he has given us the freedom and power to turn from sin (and conflict), to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Eph. 2:1-10; Gal. 5:22-23; Rom. 8:28-29), and to become ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-20).
No. Although some disputes are properly resolved through compromise, conciliators do not encourage the parties to "split the difference" merely to get a matter settled. Christian conciliators take justice seriously, do all they can to help people live up to their responsibilities, even when doing so is unpleasant and costly.
Yes. Before attempting mediation, a conciliator can provide you with written materials and individual coaching designed to help you explore ways to resolve your conflict by utilizing peacemaking principles. When private efforts have failed, it is often necessary to bring more people into the process (see Matt. 18:15-16).
If you cannot resolve a conflict in private, it may no longer be a question of whether you will work with strangers, but which strangers you will work with. If your dispute ends up in court, you will have little control over the selection of a judge and jury, and will have little, if any, knowledge of their basic values. With Christian conciliation, parties have a voice in the selection of the conciliators, and know that the conciliators are committed to biblical principles.
Christian conciliation recognizes the importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the central theme in God’s redemptive working with humankind. The Gospel shapes how people are to view themselves, others, God, and reality. While examining the Judeo-Christian values and principles that promote loving relationships, conciliators always keep in mind that God’s love exhibited through Christ is the foundational starting point for all we think, say, and do. If you submit a case to conciliation, you will be encouraged to consider biblical principles for living, including the instruction to:
be honest. “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
do what is just and merciful. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
accept responsibility for your actions and admit your wrongs. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:5).
keep your word. “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’ (Matthew 5:37).
be concerned about the interests of others. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
listen carefully to what others say. “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
overlook minor offenses. “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
confront others constructively. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
be open to forgiveness and reconciliation. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
change harmful attitudes and behavior. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
make restitution for any damage you have caused. “If a man uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit must pay for the loss” (Exodus 21:33-34).
In other words, if you use Christian conciliation, you will be encouraged to consider how best to: “…do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
No. Many people who do not profess to be Christians have submitted disputes to Christian conciliation and have been pleased with the results. Christian conciliators evaluate each case on an individual basis, but may decline to accept a case if it appears that either party does not respect the Christian principles underlying the process.
Since Christian conciliation promotes values and principles that are common to all Christian churches, it has gained the support of churches within every major Christian community. Conciliators regularly work with evangelical, mainline Protestant, charismatic, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, fundamentalist, and Reformed churches.
RCS encourages the participation of parties’ pastors and church leaders in conciliation processes. Jesus gave the church the primary responsibility and authority for resolving conflict among Christians. Therefore, we encourage Christians involved in conflict to turn first to their church leaders for counsel and assistance. Should Christian parties desire to submit a case to Christian conciliation, we cooperate with their churches throughout the conciliation process and work collaboratively with the parties to appropriately include pastors, elders, church officials, counselors, and mentors when their participation facilitates a redemptive process of reconciliation. Therefore, if you are involved in a conflict and belong to a church, please encourage your pastor to review this material and call us to discuss ways we can work together.
RCS respects and upholds the role of the local church in the lives of its members and recognizes that church discipline, done properly, is a means of grace in the lives of those who receive it. Therefore, if a church disciplinary process either precedes or follows a conciliation process, RCS expects that church officials will wisely, lovingly, and redemptively use whatever information they possess to shepherd and care for its members. Participating in a conciliation process does not remove or interfere with church officials’ responsibility to shepherd and even discipline its members. All non-party conciliation participants must be approved by all parties and RCS.
Yes. RCS utilizes resources to help Christian organizations learn and practice biblical conflict resolution. Review this website’s Education and Training section for more information about how we assist organizations in developing a “culture of peace.”
If you have a conflict with a Christian conciliator, we encourage you to try to work out your differences personally and privately with than individual (see Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15). If repeated efforts to resolve your complaint in private do not succeed, the Bible teaches that you should seek assistance from other Christians in resolving the matter in a biblically faithful manner. We encourage you to seek help and support from your own church or local Christian community in any complaint process (Matt. 18:16-20; 1 Cor. 6:1-8). The Institute for Christian Conciliation may also be contacted for assistance. If it appears that the conciliator may have violated the ICC Standard of Conduct for Christian Conciliators, the ICC will investigate your complaint and may take remedial or restorative disciplinary actions against the conciliator.
Used with permission by Judy Dabler, www.CreativeConciliation.org, based on contributions from ICC Peace and Creative Conciliation.