Achievement Unlocked: Community Established !

Once upon a time there was a church with a handful of committed families, an energised and fun weekly gathering, and big hopes for the future. Several years earlier, two good friends had moved to the community with a dream to establish something new. They had followed the process of making friends and building connections, sharing their vision as they went. Soon enough, others who shared their passion joined them and the small team worked together to establish a faith community. What they lacked in resources they made up for in commitment and ideas. Now here they were, a growing community with a vibrant shared life and a permanent home. Things were finally becoming comfortable and everyone settled into a routine. But all was not well with our two pioneering friends. They were both more focussed on meeting people than holding meetings. They were so used to flying by the seat of their pants and relying on their inventiveness, that any kind of planning felt frustrating. New people were arriving all the time and more complex pastoral issues were starting to occur. A few people started having difficulties with the way things were run. The building was getting messy and gatherings were all planned at the eleventh hour. Planned events were sometimes cancelled at the last minute. The unpredictability of things effected a couple of families who decided to leave, creating hurt and disappointment for others.

Both friends agreed that things had become too stressful and they couldn’t continue. One in particular was showing signs of significant burnout but felt trapped—who else could take the reigns? They held on as long as they could but eventually the only solution seemed to be to move away. So they did. They decided quickly and within six weeks were gone. Those left behind continued as best they could, but the once fun and purposeful atmosphere was now fatigued and unsure. The community drifted. Now when people talk about it, they say with sadness “Yeah I know that place, I was part of those early days…back when it felt like we were really doing something together.”

 

Alternate ending

Both friends agreed that things had become too stressful, they couldn’t continue. One of the core team members noticed the two pioneering friends weren’t themselves. They also noticed the disappointment and hurt that was emerging in the wider group. A special meeting was called where anyone who wanted to come and talk about ‘where are we?’ could attend. They sang together, ate together and shared different perspectives. Together as a community they recognised the recent rapid growth and that there was a new need for clearer systems. They needed to create ways to share the load and include new people. They developed their first ever rosters and allowed people with gifts in particular areas to commit to being responsible for certain roles. The pioneering team walked away from the meeting feeling supported. It wasn’t clear if they could adapt to the new ways of working just yet and part of them balked at the idea of rosters, but they could also see people looking inspired and that was beautiful to see. They found themselves again prayerfully wondering what God might be doing in their midst.

Questions

  • Have you ever experienced the challenges illustrated in the fable above? What did you learn from this time?
  • In this fable, what were the clues that a significant change in how the community was organised would be needed?
  • Are there distinct phases that missional/church plant/innovative projects move through? For example…getting started, growing, establishing community, ministering more widely? Draw up a lifecycle diagram or list based on what your group sees as the major phases.
  • What gifts and skills are needed at each phase? Do they change?
  • What does it mean if people have made an important contribution in a certain phase, but their strengths or gifts aren’t needed as much anymore? Does every person always have a role? When do people need to make a change, and how can this happen in a healthy supportive way?
  • Are rosters, procedures, role descriptions and formal meeting processes good things for all communities? When are they most useful? What might be the downsides?

Wisdom from the pews

“It is important for any project to go through a process of consolidation. During this time energy is put into strengthening foundations, building capacity and focusing inward on systems and relationships. The challenge in this time will be to say no to new ideas, and to avoid taking on too many additional agendas. ”

“Formally naming the season as one of rest and consolidation is useful so that the whole community can participate. “We stopped being pioneering, we were established, I breathed out.” At this time, teams may form and a new key leader might take the reigns who has different strengths to the original innovator/pioneer. ”

Going deeper

Rev. Sarah Agnew reflects on season within pioneering

Pioneering can have an intensity and demand, especially in early stages. In this blog post, Rev. Sarah Agnew reflects on the reality of waning energy in ministry and how this relates to ministry. From personal experience, Sarah illustrates the challenges of consolidation and the need to take stock as commitment and focus changess

https://sarahtellsstories.blogspot.com/2011/05/seasonal-pioneering.html