Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership (EdD)


Gary Bredfeldt


conflict, conflict resolution methods, pastors


Educational Leadership | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


This qualitative, phenomenological by design research aimed to identify the conflict resolution methods utilized by African American pastors who serve in rural locations and shepherd a flock of one hundred or fewer congregants. The study also sought to understand the background, origin, and perceived effectiveness of resolving congregational conflict from the specified demographic. As the shepherd of the flock, the pastor has the inherent responsibility to resolve conflict within the church. The church experiences conflict from numerous external sources; however, this research sought to address conflict within the congregation. This study collected data through the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict MODE Instrument. 71.4% of the research participants revealed the conflict resolution method of accommodating as the most commonly identified in the specific demographic. Structured open-ended question interviews determined the background, origin, and perceived effectiveness of the conflict resolution methods of the researched demographic. The results revealed that the research participants established and patterned conflict resolution methodology from their mentors in the ministry. The methodology was based on Scripture and the traditions passed on in the ministry from mentor to understudy. The patterns revealed a direct relationship between the methods of pastors and the methods of their respective mentors in the ministry. The influence of serving as an apprentice under a senior minister served as the most valuable educational experience, along with a reliance on Scripture, which formed the foundation of the conflict resolution method. The research participants equated longevity of service as an indicator of effective conflict resolution skills as a leader. Conflict resolution skills have become more commonplace in the seminary school curriculum due to overwhelming feedback from recent seminary graduates.