By Deborah Bruce
A previous post examined congregational conflict from the pastor's point of view. Today, we’ll look at what worshipers say about the topic.
Few worshipers have seen conflict. Almost one-half of worshipers (47%) report no conflict in their congregation in the past two years, and another two in ten (21%) don’t know if there has been any conflict. That leaves just one-third (32%) who are aware of congregational discord.
Fewer worshipers than pastors are aware of congregational conflict. Eight in ten pastors (79%), but only one-third of worshipers (32%), report that their congregation faced any conflict in the past two years. Why might this be so?
Church size plays a role. More worshipers in small churches than in larger ones report conflict in their church. In churches that average 100 or fewer in worship, a slight majority of worshipers (56%) knew about a conflict, whether major or minor. But in the largest churches with more than 350 in worship only half as many (26%) were aware of conflict. Rather, three-quarters of worshipers in large churches (74%) say there’s been no conflict or simply don’t know.
In smaller churches more worshipers are involved in more ways in the church’s activities and more hold leadership positions in the church. This involvement exposes them to the good and bad sides of church life. Thus, many worshipers in small churches share the pastor’s view from a standpoint that makes church conflict visible.
In larger churches worshipers may participate in worship without engaging in other aspects of congregational life. Sunday-only worshipers have little knowledge of what happens behind the curtain to keep the church alive. These unengaged worshipers are sheltered from conflicts that might pop up—conflicts that the pastor cannot miss.