Want to birth a warm, genuine community? Start with your core team.
1. Community starts with the team
Through listening and love, you will start to form community with the people you are called to.
Deep community begins with your team/core group. The core team is the hub of the community and sets the tone.
The quality of your team’s communal life will ripple out to others, just as the communal life of the Trinity overflows into the world.
That’s why community in the core team, the theme here, is vital. The next unit, 11. Community, is about building community among the people the core team serves.
2. Make ‘community’ rather than ‘team’ a priority
Teams become communities when their members relate primarily not to their leaders but to one another.
In a team, the leader is the focal person. The leader makes the decisions (hopefully after consulting the team).
In a community, leaders remain important but they are not the focal point. Members relate mainly to each other. Decision-making is shared.
One study found that in effective teams, people held little side conversations while others were contributing to the discussion (Alex Pentland, Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, New York: Penguin Press, 2014, pp. 88–89). There was a community feel.
You can encourage community by inviting people to check in whenever the core team meets. Ask members to share:
- The most challenging thing and the best thing that has happened since they last met, or
- Where they have seen God at work since they met previously.
People will understand each other more in the round.
Teams also become communities when fellow members matter at least as much as the task. Members do favors and look out for each other.
They go the second mile for one another. They commit themselves to team relationships, not just to the team’s goals.
Caution! Beware of running away from conflict. To protect their relationships, people may avoid conflict or criticising one another’s performances. This hinders learning. So don’t forget the task! Communities can be energised by a shared goal.
3. Experiences before values is a good motto
Many teams assume their first job is to become clear about their purpose and values. But done too early, this may produce needless and fruitless debate.
Different personalities, experiences and expectations may block agreement. Or some members may go along with the others but without being deeply committed to the decision. When things get tough, they disengage or drop out.
So instead, start by banking some shared experiences:
- Eating together
- A film night
- Going on a day trip
- Learning about one another’s past experiences, especially of teams.
To avoid frustration that you are neglecting the task, the team can explore its purpose but as a secondary activity.
Shared experiences help to create good relationships so that you can discuss objectives and values honestly.
4. Learn together prayerfully
Some people assume the team’s main task is its goals, but achievement is only possible if the team learns as it goes along.
So make learning your priority.
Look at all the learning that happened when the first churches were planted! Not for nothing did the Christians call themselves ‘disciples’, which comes from the Latin word for ‘learning’.
Your core team can encourage learning by regularly holding ‘milestone reviews’, in which members ask three questions:
- What is? What happened since we last met? Did we achieve what we hoped? What can we learn?
- What could be? What are the possibilities and options going forward?
- What will be? What actions shall we commit ourselves to?
Milestone reviews can be undertaken informally by two friends over a coffee, or formally as an agenda item in a meeting.
5. Welcome disagreement as:
- An opportunity to learn from other points of view;
- A sign that individuals are being given space – their views are not ignored or suppressed;
- A mark of honest sharing, which deepens relationships as different opinions are expressed;
- A school in managing conflict – members can apply what they’ve learnt in the core team to their other relationships. For example, lessons about handling disagreement well can be taken into the community that forms round the team’s practical love.
When a discussion gets painfully tense, have a period of prayerful silence.
This can still emotions, allow members to address their inner hearts, encourage everyone to become more open to other views, and give space to hear the Spirit.
6. Might one of the team be “chaplain”…
…to nurture the community’s spiritual life?
It doesn’t have to be the leader!
Remember: fruitful Christian communities all seem to have prayer at their heart.
Conflict is inevitable, but we can prepare. What will God teach us?
When we recognise we’re in conflict and manage ourselves, conflict can become holy ground.
We won’t use these tools in the heat of the moment unless we’ve practised…
Prayerfully read Matthew 18.21-35 (the unmerciful servant).
- Imagine an equivalent story in the context of your core group/team’s life. What would it look like?
- List what is involved in the process of forgiveness.
- How might you encourage each other to practice this ‘holy habit’ of forgiveness?
- What other holy habits might you encourage in your core group/team?
- Might you ask someone in the team to be especially responsible for encouraging holy habits within the team?
- Might you ask someone from outside to be a mentor to your team/core group?
- How might tools like the taketime website help you in meditating/listening to God?
Choose one or more of the following:
- Re-read the Guide and recall the video Stories.
- What lessons strike home for you?
- What is the most important lesson for you to address now?
- What steps will you to take to incorporate that lesson into your team/core group’s life?
- Invite others in the team/core group to prayerfully share their best experience of being in a team or group.
- Having listened to each other’s stories, what lessons might you learn?
- How might you incorporate these lessons into your team’s life?
- Ask a team member to research:
- Someone good at nurturing team life who could be invited to share their experience; or
- A helpful YouTube video to watch; or
- A blog or book chapter to discuss.
and discuss the answers.