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A Male Approach to Female Conflict: Does It Work?

Two women were bickering in Philippi—women Paul knew personally. They had “struggled together [with Paul] in the gospel ministry.” They were insiders, respected friends, true believers, and he cared enough to be grieved by their conflict and address the situation in his letter.

Two women were bickering in Philippi—women Paul knew personally. They had “struggled together [with Paul] in the gospel ministry.” They were insiders, respected friends, true believers, and he cared enough to be grieved by their conflict and address the situation in his letter.

What divided them? We don’t know. But we know that the issue was serious, probably a threat to the unity of the church. News of the dispute traveled all the way to Rome, where Paul was under house arrest. In verse two, Paul appealed to the male leaders to negotiate their conflict, to help these women “agree in the Lord.”

Just like in Paul’s day, male leaders today often find they are called to help women make peace. Because they are sometimes called into the middle of these disputes, they are wise to prepare. An undisclosed part of their job description is the task of intercessor, peacemaker, and negotiator for women.

In our experience, male ministers tend to handle conflict without taking into account the gender of the parties involved. Big mistake. Men and women process conflict differently. Of course, Matthew 18:15-17 applies to both men and women. But ignoring the gender factor as they attempt to negotiate differences can severely hamper their effectiveness and lessen the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Do the men you know understand basic differences in the way men and women process conflict? How might you help them equip themselves? We'd love to hear your ideas.

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Sue Edwards

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.