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Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict

Video:  “Antagonists are real.” Firsthand accounts by five people who learned how to deal with antagonists through this book.

Who Are Antagonists?

Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are often directed against those in a leadership capacity. (from chapter 2, “What Is Church Antagonism?”)

The Study Guide turns the book Antagonists in the Church into a course so a leadership team can learn, discuss, and apply the principles together.

The Purpose of This Course

Using the groundbreaking book Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict, participants in this course learn:

  • ways to recognize the signs of an antagonist—someone whose behavior devastates individuals, disrupts ministry, and tears congregations apart

  • essential measures to prevent antagonism in the congregation

  • practical methods to deal with antagonists

The goal is to give church staff, lay leaders, and others the knowledge and skills to confront antagonistic behaviors that would harm God’s people and mission—and to prevent these behaviors in the first place.

What People Are Saying about Antagonists in the Church

Read what pastors are saying

“Reading and studying Antagonists in the Church together helps the entire team understand that antagonism is a real problem and that it isn’t something one person can solve alone—it’s about what we can do together.”

Dr. Jerome Brownlee | Overland Park, Kansas

“The real value of this book becomes apparent when you have as many lay leaders as possible study it in a group. The more people in the congregation who read this book, the better.”

Dr. Mark Winkler | Jacksonville, Florida

“When you study this book with other leaders, you build a broad base of understanding and mutual support for dealing with an antagonist.”

Rev. Elaine Cervini | Tulsa, Oklahoma

“For a multi-staff congregation, this book is vital. It’s great for staff training and equipping!”

Rev. Tim Larson | Willmar, Minnesota

Read what lay leaders are saying

Antagonists in the Church is a great book for reading and discussing with a group. When everybody is on the same page, you get a broader perspective and strength in numbers.”

Barb Holzhauer | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“No leader should have to fight a battle against an antagonist alone and unprepared. Antagonists in the Church helps church leaders handle the situation together.”

Kim O’Haver | Saint Joseph, Michigan

“Antagonism needs to be handled with as much wisdom as you can possibly muster. Antagonists in the Church gives you that wisdom.”

Laura Denham | Houston, Texas

“All the way through our first group study of Antagonists in the Church, people kept asking to join the class—even when we were almost finished. So we scheduled another class right away.”

David Frank | Blue Springs, Missouri

Course Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources are used for this course? Who typically leads the course?

A pastor or other church staff person, a lay leader, or a team of two or more of these individuals typically leads the course.

Is special training needed to conduct this course?

No. The Study Guide provides everything needed to conduct this course, including instructions for the course leader or leaders and space for participants to write responses to questions.

The main task of the leader or leaders is to guide the group through the questions in the Study Guide, ensuring that the discussion stays on track. The instructions in the Study Guide will help with this role.

Who typically participates in the course?

Any adult member of the congregation could be a participant. The course is especially valuable for those in leadership roles—study groups have included church staff, governing boards, elders, and deacons.

What is the schedule for teaching this course?

The Study Guide offers many options to fit your situation. Most groups meet weekly for six to eight sessions, covering three to five chapters per session. Some congregations cover the material in a retreat setting—or a combination of weekly sessions and a retreat.

One factor that can drive the schedule is whether or not an antagonist is actively causing problems in a congregation. Leadership teams may choose to cover the material more quickly if an antagonist is active.

When should a congregation offer this course?

Sometimes, congregations start this course when an antagonist has begun to cause destructive conflict. More often, they use the course as a preventive measure—no antagonist is active at the moment, but congregation leaders see the need to be proactive and prevent antagonism from ever gaining a foothold.

Congregations also benefit by offering this course on an ongoing basis, especially as new lay leaders and church staff begin to serve, so they’ll be educated and equipped to deal with antagonists.