About 990 BC - King David has the Ark of the Covenant brought into Jerusalem. Michal, his first wife, sees his exuberance while dancing before the Ark. When he comes into the house, she rebukes him sarcastically. He replies in kind, permanently damaging their relationship.
1986-87 – The pastor of a Baptist church in a coastal town in Washington State kills his wife after an argument.
1997 – A pastor on Bainbridge Island, WA, kills his wife during a fight, then sets the house on fire.
2016 – A former police officer and a church security consultant kills his wife in a dispute. He had a history of excessive use of force.
Domestic and Workplace Conflicts and Church Security
Conflicts and other stresses in the home and at work are often behind disruptive behavior in public places, including in churches and at church-related events. The Sheepdog Church Security Guide chapter “Disruptive Persons and Verbal Deescalation for Churches” lists several contributing factors to disruption. These often involve conflict in the family, at work, in school, and in other places, either currently or in the past.
In the Church Security Podcast “What Leads to Disruption?: Toward Understanding Disruptive Persons”, Sheepdog Church Security founder Kris Maloney discusses several examples of home or work life leading to a person being disruptive in a church setting.
On the other side, conflict in our own personal lives can impact our roles as members of Church Safety Teams. On the positive side, it can help us understand the persons we are dealing with. On the negative side, if we cannot deal with conflict at home, it may hamper our ability to deal with it at church.
Verbal de-escalation is a key component of conflict resolution, which several companies teach to their employees, and many schools teach to their staffs. This trains people to settle disputes peaceably, even if it means agreeing to disagree agreeably. We all have our own ways of seeing and doing things, our own likes and dislikes, our own opinions, and our own desires.
What Causes Conflict?
What causes conflict? James says it comes from our desires (James 4:1-3). We don’t get what we want. We don’t get our way. Or we are resisting someone who wants what we have or wants us to do things their way. Or someone not getting their own way takes out their anger on us. Or we are dealing with someone hurt by that person. You can add your own examples to the list.
We can build our verbal de-escalation skills by resolving conflict where we live, work, study, etc. We can practice living as peacemakers, making conflict resolution a way of life. This is to make both our lives and those we live and work with better, but it should make us better at de-fusing potentially disruptive situations at church.
Let’s face it – we all have issues. We all have places where we can be drawn into conflict. So how can we resolve conflict? Paul tells us, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3), and “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
The key to conflict resolution at home or at work is the same as in international affairs – compromise. I know that compromise has become a no-no for us in church. Of course we should not compromise the basics of our faith. But there are some things where compromise is essential for peace, especially when it comes to personal preferences. As Paul was saying, we should not always insist on getting our own way. In Romans 14 he tells believers in Rome to accept each other with their differences.
With this in mind, now we can practice verbal de-escalation. Here is a do and a don’t from conflict resolution classes:
Don’t use “You” statements: “You did this” or “You are that.”
Do use “I” statements: “I feel sad [or happy] when …” or “I am hurt when …”
Be honest. If you realize you are wrong, admit it. It is not sissy to be sorry. When King David realized he was wrong, he admitted it. Admitting wrong builds trust, because you are not hiding something.
Control your voice level, facial expressions, body language. Try to not look or sound angry.
Here is a list (abbreviated) from an article, “Conflict Resolution: Using the ‘Interest-Based Relational’ Approach” on Mind Tools:
Make sure that good relationships are a priority.
Treat the other person with respect.
Separate people from problems.
Listen carefully to different interests.
Listen first, talk second.
Set out the "facts."
Explore options together.
True conflict resolution only happens when both parties are involved, either face-to-face or through a third party. Not only may we have only one party to work with in a church or other public setting, this may also be true at home, at school, on the factory floor, or in the shop or office when tension builds and anger rises. For example, your spouse or child may be upset by someone or something outside the home. De-escalation is called for. Cool heads reason better.
Or if you are one of the parties, and no conflict resolution is possible until tempers cool down, cooling yourself down is the first item on your list. In the examples at the top, David, the two pastors, and the former police officer let their own anger flare instead of controlling it. If I control myself first, and cool my head as well as my heels, I will have better success in cooling the other person. De-escalating the tension at home or in the office may work for the benefit of your home or workplace, but it also prepares you to do it as a Church Security Team member.
Sheepdog Church Security has several resources about verbal de-escalation:
Church Security Guide
- “Disruptive Persons and Verbal Deescalation for Churches”
Church Security Articles
- “A Word Fitly Spoken”
- “What Leads to Disruption?”
- “Seeing the Risk”
- "Identifying potentially explosive situations"
- "How to Verbally De-escalate"
- "Defusing an explosive situation before it blows up"
- "Pouring Oil on Troubled Water
- "Calming the Storm - Using Verbal De-escalation to Preclude Use of Force"
Church Security Podcasts
- “What Leads to Disruption?: Toward Understanding Disruptive Persons”
- “Seeing the Risk: Recognizing Potentially Disruptive Persons”
- “Calming the Storm: Using Verbal De-escalation to Preclude Use of Force”
- “Pouring Oil on Troubled Water”
- The Church Guardian
“Conflict Resolution” by Mary J. Yerkes (Focus on the Family)
“Verbal De-Escalation Techniques That Actually Work” by Scott Taylor CPP (Security Solutions)
“Conflict Resolution: Using the "Interest-Based Relational" Approach” by the Mind Tools Editorial Team (Mind Tools)