Forming a team
Attending to the team (the 'missional community') is vital throughout a fresh expression's life. The missional community - whether large or small - enables the new church to emerge and sets its tone. Research shows that in the business world teams of entrepreneurs rather than any one person found a substantial proportion - perhaps the majority - of new ventures.
Forming the missional community will occur throughout the community's life. Trigger points are the arrival of a new member, who inevitably changes the dynamics of the group.
Forming involves members getting to know each other and establishing ground rules. It is about forming the community's identity. When you start hearing 'we', you know that this process has occurred.
Forming includes selecting new community members
Willing helpers may not be readily at hand, so realistic expectations are necessary. However, it may be worth keeping the following in mind:
- Additions to the group have down as well as upsides. Unless they are replacing someone, a new member will make the community larger and perhaps more complex. Managing the team could become more demanding. The group needs to be sure that the extra skills and contacts the newcomer brings will outweigh the disadvantages of this added complexity. Might the person contribute without belonging to the community - as an adviser perhaps?
- A more diverse group can improve the community's capacity. The team will have a wider range of skills and networks. More diverse views can produce better decisions. But diversity may also reduce cohesion, increase conflict and cause an actual decline in effectiveness. The 'exchange theory' of groups maintains that individuals want to get out of a group at least as much as they put in. They do not want too much dissent because it is less comfortable and involves more effort than conformity. Balancing these considerations needs prayerful thought.
- Hidden processes influence the selection of community members. There is often an unconscious tendency, for example, to select people who are similar in some way - like attracts like. Whose voice is most influential in decisions about new membership reflects the distribution of power within the missional community. Being aware of such processes makes a degree of detachment from them possible, and negotiation between members about them becomes easier - 'Have we agreed how the decision will be made and that the leader will have the last word?'
- Size may affect the time it takes the team to form. Elephants have longer gestation periods than fleas.
Forming should be about forming community
This is important, even if there are just two of you. If the missional community sets the tone for the emerging church and community is essential to being church, then community must be at the heart of the team's life.
This may be a new experience for some members. They may have been in teams where relationships were hierarchical. Individuals related to the leader and only incidentally to others in the team. The vertical reporting relationship (to the leader) predominates over relationships with other members.
Teams with a stronger community feel have a greater emphasis on horizontal relationships. Individuals don't just relate to the leader, they have strong ties to others in the team. There is more sense of shared decision-making and mutual support.
This is a short extract from How can we be a great team?. Check out the webpage on Share for more hints or suggestions, or purchase the Share booklet, How can we be a great team?. The booklet can be bought individually, or in a pack with six other Share booklets.
For more thought-provoking articles on different aspects of fresh expressions of church, visit the Share website.