How to…end a Missional Community
Are you worried about bringing a Missional Community to an end, and how that might be perceived?
We don’t naturally tend to talk much about endings, as they don’t hold the same excitement or dynamism as beginnings, often it seems easier to quietly move on. Over the past two months we have acknowledged the end of 2 of our Missional Communities. I was concerned that some in the church might perceive that something had gone wrong, the leader or group had failed, and MCs were a fad which were struggling and should be discontinued. We took the decision to see this as an opportunity to share again the journey of MCs, to honour those who had been among the first to take the pioneering steps, and inspire others to take up the challenge.
It all started with a reminder of a simple fact:
Revelation 1 v 8 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
We all know that ending well in ministry is vital, that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, so I found that a bit of revelation came as a timely reminder. We know that God is the God of endings just as much as beginnings, HE is the Alpha and Omega, present in the same way, and as we seek Him just as much about the endings of missional communities as the beginnings, He is present and brings revelation to a situation.
Having chewed it over, I had concluded that 2 of our MCs were not really MCs at all but either personal ministries or church projects, but I wasn’t sure how to break this news to the group leaders. These guys had responded to the initial vision for MCs, got behind it, thrown their heart and soul into it, been faithful, shared their passion clearly and battled on, but not seen others come alongside them. I prayed and felt led to visit the huddle they were in and share that we needed to draw a line in the sand under their MC. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the evening, but then I had forgotten that HE is Alpha and Omega. In short God had also prepared them for closure, and they were worried about telling me that they didn’t feel it was right to carry on with the MC! Once we both shared, there was a sense of relief and the presence of God in the situation.
So having negotiated that hurdle, bringing the church up to speed became the next step, and to model finishing well was a key thought.
Here from our experience are the most helpful 3 tips:
- Communication. As a church we regularly share the launch and then stories and testimonies from our MCs in Sunday services, so it seemed right to publically acknowledge the endings as well. We wanted to walk the congregation through the situation, our learning and reflections, to celebrate and explain the journey. Having honest conversations helped people understand and demystify what it is all about, and brought clarity. It also really helped by remembering that ultimately it is God’s work not ours, that He is in charge and it’s not all down to us!
- Reflection. My philosophy has always been that if you are going to do something put 100% into it, and just go for it. So with that in mind having discussed it with the people involved I interviewed one of the MC leaders and chatted through the process they had been through, how they had thought the group had the potential to have become an MC, the progress made, what it would have looked like as an MC and concluded that it had remained a project instead and the reasons why. The church really seemed to appreciate the honesty, the heart involved, and were supportive of the leaders.
- Celebration. We wanted to acknowledge and honour the MC leaders, not only for their heart and honesty, but also obedience, pioneering spirit and commitment. We shared the successes they had experienced, the fact they had been at the spearhead of our journey as a church into missional communities, taking the steps that others could later follow in, and prayed for them in their ongoing ministries as they moved forward from endings to new beginnings.
In church leadership endings are never easy, but everyone benefits when we remember that He is the Alpha and the Omega, God of the beginning and the end, and we trust him in every circumstance.
Mary Banks lives in Wolverhampton with her husband and 2 “almost but not quite adult” sons. She is bi-vocational working as a social worker and at the Church at Junction 10 where she is Ministry Leader responsible for Missional Communities amongst other things.
Further Reading: Leading Missional Communities Chapter 9 gives a useful summary of the top 10 practical reasons MCs fail and leaves us with the thought that even if we did everything right, not every MC makes it and that’s ok.