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7 Thoughts on Creating Unity in a Church for a New Pastor

Find common ground

What do people agree upon? As noted previously, this should be the Gospel, but what about its methodology is commonly embraced? Again, maybe it’s Sunday school, but perhaps it’s reaching the community’s lower income families. It could be a ministry of adoption or homelessness. There are probably numerous ministries or interests within the church about which everyone is passionate. Find some and pour energy into them. The more of these you can identify and rally people around, the more unified the church will become. The key is you must work toward a common mission if there is any hope of bringing unity.

Plan group activities

This can be an ice cream social or a ministry opportunity to one of the common issues, but it should be something which will involve people from both sides of the divide. It would be best if you could get someone from each faction to the planning table for these events. Most likely there are some who, though they have chosen a “side” to support, are mature enough they can work with someone of a different opinion to plan a function.

Celebrate success

There is something about celebrating which brings people together. Find small wins and celebrate them. Celebrate the things people can agree upon. Often this will be the history of the church or the heart the church has for missions or ministry.

Challenge the few objectors

There are usually a few people who are naturally divisive. This number is usually smaller than it appears, but these people are critical of everything and usually bring down the morale of others and the church. You may have to pull them aside, ask them to cooperate, and if they will not, work to remove them from power. (This could obviously be the subject of another blog post, but a necessary part of creating unity.) The unity and vision of the church is more important than appeasing those whose only mission is to disrupt.

Embrace the influencers

Just as there are a few who are negative, there are usually a few who are positive about unity and who have influence over others. I believe in the “each one reach one” practice. Spend time with these influencers, help them understand the importance of unity, then encourage and release them to help shape an atmosphere and culture of unity, one person at a time. Keep these natural influencers and encouragers close and informed and empower them to help create unity.

Communicate effectively

Communication is always important, but especially during times of disunity. Information must flow freely and often. When people don’t have information, they assume you are keeping it from them intentionally. Keep people informed and they feel more like they are part of the team and the vision.

Obviously every situation is unique. Don’t be ashamed to seek outside help. Creating unity takes time, prayer and hard work. It often involves repentance for things said and done which caused the disunity. Keep in mind the process involves relationships, so it can be messy. Unity will likely involve people granting forgiveness and releasing the right to have things their way. Depending on the severity of the division in the church, these issues should certainly be shaping your teaching during this time. It may be subtle or more direct, but certainly deliberate.

Finally, for an illustration purpose, you might treat the process as you would if you were counseling a couple, only on a larger scale, of course. Identifying the underlying problems and offering small, steady steps to improving the relationships before you address the issues of division will help create unity.  

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.