When it went wrong…and what we learnt: team

In any human enterprise it is inevitable that at times things will go wrong and Missional Communities are no exception. Sometimes these are major events that lead to the breakup of a community, but more often they are ‘little local difficulties’ that cause the leadership a time of concern. Handled properly they don’t have any long term negative effects on the community. Rather, in my experience, they lead to the strengthening of the group and enable growth to happen.

In our early days of establishing a Missional Community we had an occasion when our carefully made and agreed plans for the evening were turned upside down. One of the members of the leadership team, without any warning, introduced an entirely random activity to the group. Not only did it catch us unawares but it didn’t fit into anything we had agreed and prepared. Although it meant lots of instant re-arranging we got through the evening.

As can be imagined, some of the leadership team found this easier to deal with than others. We had to face the fact that we had a ‘loose cannon’ on the team and that we were going to have to find a way of dealing with it. So what did we learn from this?

Allow space for the unexpected. Spontaneity is important. In this instance it wasn’t, but for us as leaders we saw the need to be open and relaxed.

Low control is good but High Accountability is equally important.

Accountability is vital. When we discussed the whole thing as a team we each came to see that we all had to learn this. In this particular instance it was the one person going against what had been agreed without reference to anyone else that caused the problem. There had been discussion and agreement but it was obvious that there wasn’t at this stage an understanding of mutual accountability. We all saw that it was possible for any one of us to act in the same way.

Open and honest conversation is a vital part of being a team. It would have been easy to insist that we always stuck to the agreed programme and challenge the person about their behaviour. However we chose to have an open discussion and see what emerged. As we discussed the evening and its events everyone came to understand that this was a learning opportunity for all.

It was a Kairos moment for the Missional Community and its leadership team. We were able to put into practice all aspects of the Learning Circle*. We all learned and the team was strengthened. Over time it allowed for deeper discussion about the vision of the Community and how each of us related to it. This in turn led to the positive and creative multiplication into 3 new Missional Communities.

There are plenty of other things we learnt out of this one evening but above all we realised that we not only loved one another but that we really liked each other and could work together.


David Rosser lives in Durham with his wife Jenny. They have been involved in the establishing and development of Missional Communities for the past 10 years.

* For more on Lifeshapes go to www.weare3dm.com

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