When the going gets tough…
When we transitioned our home group into a fledging missional community, we suddenly found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep learning curve! Very quickly we encountered practical questions like: how on earth were we going to juggle our diaries to share our lives more, whilst reaching out together in meaningful ways to our friends? As time passed, other challenges emerged: people feeling tired, discouragement when turnout was low, people deciding to leave our MC, struggling to balance the “up, in and out” dimensions of the group’s life, concern that we weren’t breaking new ground, and so on. And all the while reading blog posts by people whose missional communities seemed to breaking frontier after frontier!
Leading an MC is hard because it’s a pioneering enterprise: you are breaking new ground and there no simple answers or rules to follow. We like clear recipes, but mission is messy. We have a vision but the gap with reality is discouraging. We want our rhythms of life to feel ‘natural’, but the truth is we are learning new habits and there is an inevitable period when they feel extremely unnatural!
Here are 5 strategies to adopt when things get tough and you feel like giving up.
1. Remember why. Remember why you felt called to all of this in the first place. The journey may be messy but that’s like any great adventure! Get back in touch with the vision: of making disciples, seeing lives transformed, our communities restored.
2. Celebrate progress. Don’t underestimate what you have already achieved. If you’re like me, you are probably underestimating what’s already happened. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone else! And celebrate and give thanks for that. Remember too that much early progress is made invisibly: changing attitudes, expectations and identities. That takes time.
3. Call a friend. I would have given up the whole MC thing several times if it were not for a monthly video call with a couple of friends and missional leaders. They would help me to recognise the progress that had been made, as well as the potential in what we were doing, and help me to keep going. Make sure you have a similar support group.
4. Set up check points. The beauty of MCs is that they are easily reconfigurable! We have an annual checkpoint where we sit down with the whole group, discuss what the progress and challenges have been over the previous year, and discern what we feel God is calling us to do next. Don’t change things too often – but do set up these check points to review and adjust.
5. Rely on the Lord. Ultimately, we need to come back to the Father for his strength and grace. It is His work, after all. If we think it all depends on us, we will be frustrated and discouraged: believe me, I’ve been there! But when we get to a place when we know we are simply responding to His call, we can get on with doing our bit whilst leaving the results in His hands.
So there are my tips for keeping going with MCs when things get tough. What do you find helps? Please share your insights below.