A Conflict Resolution Tool You’ll Want to Memorize

conflict resolution

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” – Thomas Paine

If you fit into any of these categories below, this post will give you a tool you can use all of the time. Do you want to…

  • Build Deeper Relationships with Teenagers and Help them with Conflict Resolution with their Friends?
  • Lead Small Groups Effectively
  • Train Volunteer Youth Leaders How to Deal with Conflict
  • Be a Christ-Centered Parent to Teenagers and College Students

This tool is for you…


Have you ever had what you thought was a really great idea that in the end went horribly wrong?

One winter a few years ago we got a storm that dropped about 3 feet of snow in our neighborhood. And since we didn’t have a snow plowing service, I thought it would be a “great idea” to take my Toyota Landcruiser out, put on the chains and just drive up and down the street a bunch of times to make some tracks for our neighbors to be about to get out of the neighborhood. I got my kids in the car, we started driving like a tank through huge drifts of snow, having lots of fun, and it seemed to be working.

Well, after the snow tracks got packed down… all of a sudden, we hear this huge “screech, ka bloom…” and the front end of my Landcruiser lost its steering. I thought… oh, the snow must be too deep lets just rev the engine more… well we drove right up on the sidewalk and I couldn’t steer the front end… we got out and discovered that unbeknownst to me, my chains had started to digging through the snow and was grabbing onto the asphalt below the chain had broken, wrapped around the steering arm, and snapped it… so the front wheels were turned completely sideways… (as the tow truck lifted my Landcruiser up to drag it way I thought, “Hmmm… I sure did think that was a great idea… but it was a really bad one…”

Joshua 22 is a profound story that shows how one group of Israelites thought they had a Great idea, but actually it turned out to be a really bad idea, and hurt other folks badly… maybe that sounds familiar in your life?


Conflict resolution is not just a skill for counselors. If you want good relationships in a sinful world, you will have to learn how to resolve conflict.

Early on in my ministry experience I learned a formula that continues to ring true in my life: CONFLICT + RESOLUTION = INTIMACY. When you step toward the person you are in conflict with, and humbly seek resolution, the natural result almost always is that we become closer to that person. There is no silver bullet on how to do this, but one technique that I learned from studying Joshua 22 has given me a tool to resolve conflict.


To get the most of the technique I am about to share you really have to read Joshua 22. Maybe read it now or at least read it after you finish reading this post. Like “chess,” to win the game you have to be aware of the whole situation, you have to think ahead and anticipate obstacles. Similarly, what we learn from Joshua 22 is that the context behind this event is an epic conflict that almost began a civil war among Israel. Joshua 22 gives us a formula for conflict resolution that lawyers and professional peace-makers still use today.

After studying this passage and how this conflict was resolved I thought of an Acronym, CHESS to help remember the main steps for conflict resolution. I like acronyms because in the heat of the moment it is easy to remember them and then you can start walking through the situation with more objectivity and less emotion.

Here is the easy memory tool called, “CHESS” that you can use to diffuse and resolve conflicts successfully:


First identify all of the characters or people involved in the conflict? Joshua makes a point to list out all of the tribes and some of the background of jealousy and animosity between these tribes. Sometimes we jump over thinking about the bigger context of our relationships because we are so distracted by our hurt. It is important to understand each person involved in the conflict because there may be a few people you need to have a conversation with, not just one. Ask: Who are all of the people involved in this conflict?


What is the history of the relationships in this conflict? Step back and think about if there is a history of this type of conflict with this person. Maybe there is a pattern that needs to be pointed out. By thinking of the history of your relationship with this person will do two things:

  • First it cause you to “take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of the other person’s eye.”

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

  • Second, it will give you more perspective in how to approach this person with grace and patience because you will not come across as an irrational person with a selfish agenda to be right.


What is the flow of the Events that led up to the conflict? Are there any other mini-conflicts or offenses that led to this current blow up? If you take the time to become aware of the events leading up to this conflict, other people will respect you when you initiate a conversation. They can tell that you care because you have spent time thinking about the whole situation, not just your own hurt.


There are always two side’s of the story. If you want to be a peacemaker and relationship builder you need to realize there is always two sides to a story. Get the other person’s story and actively listen to them. Repeat back to them, “So what I’m hearing you say is…  Is that right?” Then they have a chance to correct you if you heard them wrong, or to affirm that you heard them correctly.


Joshua clearly states the problem and offers resources to resolve the problem. He identifies the relevant issues, that made the problem blow up. Then Joshua explained what resources the people had to deal with the problem to resolve the conflict (they had the Law of Moses, and the authority of the priests to look into the matter). [1]

If you’d like to listen to my full 40 minute talk explaining Joshua 22 you can click the link below. Thanks!


Please share this post with a friend who might benefit from it!

[1] The case-writing principles developed in this post were inspired by the following case-study tool for missiology: 7 Steps to Making a Case Study into a Learning Tool

Joy can be Experienced When Circumstances Stink – Matthew 5: 1-12

The Sermon on the Mount for Teenagers

Two things that every teenager can identify with are a lack of hope and a deep sense of loneliness. Joy is the remedy, but how do you find it?

burned outLACK OF HOPE

When classes get hard, school seems totally pointless, friends betray you, you get cut from a team or fail a quiz… all of this can make a teenager feel hopeless. Hope is when a person has reason to believe something good is going to happen to them. Teenagers, because of the roller coaster of emotions and disloyalty among peer relationships, often do not feel like anything good is going to happen to them today, or tomorrow. Because emotions are heightened in adolescence, it is not uncommon for them to either hate or love school, depending on the day or month. This is a normal pattern, but it is not a helpful one. Those of us who really love teenagers can do something to help our teenage friends experience hope even if their circumstances stink.


Because everyone wants to feel included, teenagers tend to run in small packs. Unfortunately to preserve their sense of belonging they often cut down or make fun of other kids who are not in their group. The devastation of this pattern is insecurity for just about everyone. When a kid cuts someone down or does not show mercy toward someone who messed up, the result is deeper loneliness because everyone intrinsically knows that they are no better than anyone else. Eventually this “pack mentality” catches up with everyone. Each of us will mess up and get made fun of or ridiculed, its just a matter of time.

So how do you break out of this vicious cycle, and maybe help another teenager get free from this joyless trap of loneliness and fleeting hope?

Bragging: How to Break the Habit – Proverbs 27:2

PALS 10 Minute Devotions

Bragging - I'm number oneBragging is a temptation for all of us because everyone wants to feel special and noticed. This is a basic human need. Since God wants us to feel highly valued through friendships and family, we all need to learn to avoid bragging. When we feel insecure, our first sinful instinct is to take things into our own hands and brag. The irony is if we just trust what God teaches about bragging, and follow his guidance, then we will eventually get the very thing we are seeking: relationships. But if we ignore God’s teaching and seek relationships in our own flesh, we will get the opposite: no relationships. After all, who wants to be around someone who is bragging all of the time?

In working with young people I like to tackle crippling issues like this in a short devotional style called PALS.

Lunchroom Gospel: How to Grow Your Youth Ministry

Most of us remember what it is like in the lunchroom. After you get your lunch you scan the room for a table to sit where you will feel welcome. Adolescence can be a season of devastating insecurity, and the lunchroom can shine a spotlight on your loneliness. Kids are just waiting for someone to shine and share the Gospel with them.


I have spent a lot of time in lunch rooms with kids. Today as much as ever we must not abandon the lunch room and other places kids hang out. We need brave young leaders who are willing to go into the world of kids to be authentic representatives of Jesus. A song by John Michael Talbot casts a compelling biblical vision for those who might go offer the Bread of Life of the Gospel to kids in middle schools, high schools, and colleges:

Come to the table He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Savior wants you to join in the feast,,,
And here at the table, sit those who have loved you
One is a traitor and one will denyBut He’s lived his life for them all
And for all be crucified  (John Michael Talbot song, “Come to the Table”)


Imagine carting your lunch tray out of the food line and as you look over the crowd you see a popular kid smile at you. With the wave of his hand he invites you to come sit at his table. You probably feel awkward.  Like crossing the street you look side to side wondering if he is waving at you. Glancing back, you see his eyes look right at you. He nods and beckons you to come sit next to him. Sheepishly approaching his table, his friends shift a bit to make room for you. And they all give you a warm welcome. This is a picture of the Good News of Jesus. It symbolizes the ministry of reconciliation Jesus has given to his disciples to share with the world through warm hospitality.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1)


When I was I was in high school, this scene happened to me, but it happened on a soccer field, not the lunch room….

Canoe - Jim Eliot Quote

“I may no longer depend on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.” – Jim Elliot

4 Ways to Exponentially Improve Youth Leadership Training | Daniel 1:17-20

Like the priests who took the first steps to lead Israel into the icy waters of the Jordan River (Joshua 3), young leaders today need to be apprenticed toward brave new leadership.  When you take into account the huge youth population bulges in many nations coupled with geopolitical instability likely for decades to come, vanguard student ministry organizations and churches committed to introducing more kids to Jesus must start thinking more about strategic sustainability. Strategic sustainability implies health and growth even in the midst of unpredictability. To achieve this you must have a principle-driven leadership training framework.

At the center of any strategy to influence wide swaths of young people of any nation is to identify, train, and empower younger leaders. In this post I’m not writing to just any leader, I’m addressing those young leaders, organizations, and churches out there who dream about changing the next generation with the Gospel.  As I look at young leaders in the Bible who stand out as models for us to follow today, Daniel rises to the top.


Daniel provides a clear pathway for leaders to expand their influence more broadly. We can’t rely on cultural norms to provide an incubator for basic leadership understanding anymore. Churches and mission organizations must pioneer the way and in many ways re-educate and re-train their younger leaders who want to serve. We can’t make assumptions anymore. We must have much more than mere skills training. Instead, leadership training must involve a combination of education+training+apprenticeship. That will be the foundation of strategic sustainability for student ministry organizations in a world of fracturing cultural norms.

Daniel had four remarkable qualities that broadened his leadership: COMPREHENSIVE KNOWLEDGE, CHARACTER, COMPETENCE, and an ability to CONNECT people to God by using his spiritual gifts. These four qualities are the mark of catalytic leaders. Now lets look at each of them in context…

4 Things College & High School Campuses Need

If you are a college student, student ministry leader, or parent of a college student I want you to read this post. College is a window of opportunity. With just a bit of intentionality your college ministry experience could be the difference between a bowl of oatmeal and a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipping cream. Our college campuses are of course intensely secular places, but there’s really nothing new about that. Followers of Jesus have always been on the outside, a little strange in comparison to the dominant culture. Yet one thing that does seem different today on college campuses is the scale of erosion in the soil of Christian community.

CSU college students

The concern is that without context, it is hard for a young believer to grow and progress in Christ. Without an adequate alternative culture of Jesus-loving friends around you, there is a good chance you will be impacted more by the dominant culture around you, rather than you impacting it. Context to live out our faith is absolutely crucial.

When Adolescents Get Tired of School, Here’s How to Give Them Vision to Work Hard at Their Education

The story of Jeremiah & Daniel Inspires Adolescents Work Hard in School

Adolescents have to work really hard in their education to build a foundation of knowledge, character, and experience. Parents have the hindsight to understand just how important a Middle School and High School education is, so we can serve the pre-teens and teenagers in our lives with a compelling vision for the “why” behind all of the hard work.

Adolescents inspired by education

The more I work with adolescents and raise a few of my own, I realize that adolescents and adults are not that different from one another. In particular, we both desperately need to be reminded of the “why” behind what we do. We can all get bored, distracted, or even depressed for lack of vision (Proverbs 29:18). But when we are inspired by vision, we tend to get back that enthusiasm God created us to have and we press forward with hope and purpose for our future. Here’s how…