More Pastors Are Leaving Ministry Over Church Conflict

But experts say it can offer opportunities for leaders and congregations to grow.

Conflict had become the norm at Trinity Church in Redlands, California.

The lead pastor left in 2022 amid a wave of disgruntled attendees. Following his departure, some church members remained upset at the congregation’s elders. In all, there had been at least a dozen situations that came up over a 14-year period.

When Doug Baker arrived as interim pastor, he knew the conflict had to be addressed. Trinity called in Peacemaker Ministries, a group that mediates conflicts from a biblical perspective. Over a weekend in March 2023, Peacemaker held 15 meetings with people embroiled in the church conflict, put together a plan, and peace began to emerge.

Healing started. Many conflicts were resolved. Some people forgave. Some left the church. Trinity, which now averages 500 attendees in Sunday worship, began to change.

The conflict resolution process revealed that the congregation didn’t feel as if the elders valued their opinions. The elders began to listen humbly, and they have kept listening. Two elders stand at the welcome booth each Sunday to hear people’s opinions about church matters. According to Baker, “conversations have opened back up.”

The situation at Trinity has “been better—much, much better,” he said. “There is a peace. There is a graciousness, a unity, a love for each other and for the lost. People are reengaging with ministry. We are seeing specific ministries thriving a whole lot better because people are not worried about the struggle. They are more concerned about the kingdom.”

According to church conflict researchers, Trinity illustrates some broader trends. Conflict often provokes pastors to leave their churches or at least consider leaving, researchers …

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