Do you know the difference between a “peacemaker” and a “peacekeeper?” What did Jesus mean in Matthew 5:9 when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”?
Simply put, a peacekeeper will settle for anything to keep the peace, believing that it’s more important to keep everything “calm” and peaceful than it is to resolve anything. In contrast, the peacemaker works tirelessly to see that issues are discussed, and a decision is made that ultimately improves relationships and moves the organization forward.
Obviously, the “buck stops” with the senior pastor. Still, the executive pastor often functions as a “facilitator” when a decision has to be made or an important issue must be resolved.
As I outlined in a recent post about the unique relationship between the senior and executive pastors, an effective executive pastor knows and understands the wishes of the senior pastor. Therefore, when a decision has to be made or an issue arises, the executive pastor brings the staff together to ensure a decision is made in whatever configuration that’s necessary. In some cases, this includes getting the senior pastor involved.
As it relates to conflict resolution, though, the executive pastor’s role is not to resolve the conflict but rather to see that it is resolved. When and if a staff member approaches the executive pastor about another staff member, the executive pastor’s response must be, “Have you talked to the other staff member?” The executive pastor brings the two staff members together only if they are unsuccessful in resolving the conflict on their own.
Obviously, this is biblical conflict resolution, but the executive pastor must understand that their responsibility is to see that resolution happens, not to “smooth things over.” In this way, the executive pastor is a peacemaker, not a peacekeeper.
Ultimately a “peacemaking culture” develops, and unresolved conflict is rare. Helping to create this culture and “make” this happen is the responsibility of the executive pastor as the day-to-day leader of the staff.