Churches are a business, albeit with a totally different foundation than commercial organizations.  Like most commercial businesses,  churches have budgets, staffs, and concerns such as maintenance, insurance, and missions.  In the business world most day to day issues are handled internally by committees or individuals who have been designated to various respective areas of responsibility.  To some extent this is also true as to church organizations.

However, there are issues that can and do arise in churches which cannot and should not be decided internally.  As an example, I facilitated a settlement agreement between a local congregation and its nationally known parent body.  The issue was based upon doctrinal change by the national organization and the congregation’s unwillingness to follow the new direction.  Rather than being involved in litigation with its unfavorable results for both parties, an amicable solution was reached and both sides of the issue were satisfied with the result of the local congregation being able to dissolve its relationship with the national organization.

Too often internal issues can become divisive. Budgetary questions such as repair, expansion of facilities, and mission giving become “hot button” issues.  Issues that immediately come to the fore are compensation for staff and the retention or reduction of staff.  These areas often go outside the organizational boundaries.  Because parishioners have developed relationships with members of a staff, any issue which would personally affect a staff member has the potential for being supported and/or opposed by members of the congregation.  If there is no immediate resolution to this type of situation. the factions can become polarized to the extent of becoming personal with the result being a divided congregation.  The mentality of this situation is, “we win, they lose.”  Not a good thing.  It is this type of circumstance where mediation can give control to the disputing parties, can provide an atmosphere for healthy communication, creates a sense of satisfaction with the resolution and preserves valuable relationships.

Mediation is truly an opportunity for disputing parties to move forward in a healthy, satisfying manner.  The process creates a sense of teamwork that can lead to a better situation on the other side of the dispute.  The inability of parties to create a satisfactory resolution leads to a loss of relationships and a commonality of purpose.


Divorce and Family Layer Williamsburg, MIAt one time in our society, divorce was a rare occurrence.  Statutes and court rules pitted parties against each other requiring that fault be established before the court would grant a divorce; mental cruelty and adultery were two of the foremost grounds for those seeking a divorce.  This procedure pitted the parties in an adversarial posture and had a resultant effect upon property division, alimony, and if children were involved, custody, support and visitation.

In the current era of “No Fault Divorce”, the statutory changes have made the process much easier.  What has happened is the rate of divorce has grown significantly.  However, divorce remains to be a process which produces a high amount of personal trauma to the parties.  This effect is magnified when children become innocent parties involved in the process.  Divorce does affect children and its effect cannot be minimized.  Instead of a court arbitrarily imposing its guidelines when the issues of custody, support, and parenting time (visitation), mediation provides the parties a method to cooperate, communicate and establish their own solutions to the problems that divorce creates.

Mediation is helpful in those situations where unmarried parties have children.  It may be easier for a party to leave a relationship in these instances, but if a child is involved, courts have the power to address the issues of custody, support and visitation.

Mediation provides many benefits for parents and children.  First and foremost, the parents control the result.  They know what is best for their children and what works best for them.  Cooperating to find a solution avoids having a finding imposed by a court, which neither party prefers,  has benefits.  Mediation has proven to save time and money.  Fees, costs and court hearings can be avoided when an agreement is reached.  A successful result also reduces future conflict between the parties.  This process reduces the stress associated with court hearings and provides the parties a method for future interactions.

Mediation also provides parties to a divorce to become personally involved in the division of property, allocation of assets and spousal support.  Parties can become inventive is these areas without the specter of a court employing what has been described as “chain saw” surgery in these areas.