When it Went Wrong…and what I Learnt: Making Change Possible
I have made a lot of mistakes leading MCs, some little “why did I do that?” moments that get ironed out by quick conversations, apologies or challenges, others that are a bit more substantial.
The biggest ones, ones that have got close to wrecking relationships and other such fun things, have largely been around change. I love change! It energises me; especially if I am the one initiating it! It’s taken me quite a long time to realise others don’t feel the same way.
Two occasions stick in my mind. One time I was convinced it was time to end a community that we had been involved in leading for only a short period of time. I don’t think that conviction was wrong, but I do know that the way I tried to lead into that change was pretty poor – I went in extremely bluntly in a way that shut down routes for real conversation. I was naïve, and forgot about the heavy investment a lot of other people had put into to this group. It got messy.
Another time I was on the other end of change, a couple of people who were part of the community’s team were wanting to take it in a slightly different direction, one that made it more outward-focused and raised the bar of the members. I was sure this wasn’t right for now, and moved to stop the change, but again did so quite bluntly, with little space for conversation. We got through it all, but it was quite a major bump.
What did I learn from these mistakes? It sounds so obvious now, but I learnt that my community was not MY COMMUNITY, especially if I am one of the leaders. It’s God’s and it also belongs to everyone who is part of it. I learned that people put a whole load of investment into the community that you ask them to belong to, way more than I realised! I learnt that we deal with change in different ways and at different paces, and that you have to give the processes of a community multiplying, ending or significantly altering, time. Whatever the shape of the leadership or core team, change in a community will only really happen once everyone is able to own it. I hope I learned to listen and pay attention to people a bit more, and to wait a bit longer before launching off with what I think we should do.
We’ve ended, altered and multiplied communities since those mistakes. I’ve tried to take a gentler approach to leading through such moments. Big changes are never a walk in the park, but I think I’ve learned to handle them better. I’m grateful for the opportunities to learn from mistakes, and I’m very thankful for grace and forgiveness!
Ben Askew lives in Harrogate UK with his wife Helen and their family. He is Pioneer Curate at Kairos Network Church, an Anglican fresh expression seeking to plant Missional Communities across the Harrogate area.
Photo credit: Andrew Bowden on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/bods/4531802692