There are many positives. But is it always good? What do we need to watch out for?
5 potential negative outcomes of being "all about relationship"
- Are we sometimes too confident in how deep our relationships really are? Do we actually know each other all that well? There is a massive difference between being "friendly" and being "friends". Aside from the pleasantries are we really that close? Does time / geography allow it? Would you even be able to tell if I was sad? My friends know before I tell them.
- If things are "all about relationship" does that restrict progress and growth? For example: if I want to recruit a team I would probably do it from people I know. I would ask people I know if there are people they know who would be suitable. Are we missing quality input from people in our Churches because the right connections have not been made to get them to places or situations where they can be used fully? Are there job descriptions and application processes to fulfill roles in conferences and on teams? Or do people just invite who they know? Is that person the best person for the role? How would we ever know? Does that risk it becoming more important to be called / gifted or "well known"? Does that lead to people actually trying to "make themselves known" in a way that is based on ambition?
- How do you get involved? Our Church has a guy who with his wife leads a youth work of over 60 teenagers in a congregation of 300. Lots of other Churches in the town have young people coming here on fridays. How do we release a tremendously able communicator / leader who has built a large town wide youth work in a small town like Shrewsbury when the fact he works 60 hour weeks as an I.T. project manager over 80 miles from home means it is almost impossible for him to be "known", even though he did two years serving a major Newfrontiers Church in Capetown, South Africa? (His wife does not like to do public speaking, for those following a parallel discussion about gender). Is there a danger the criteria swings in favour of 1) Church leaders 2) Full time staff 3) people who have done Newfrontiers training in the UK because it is "all about relationships"?
- Does it look a bit like the Mafia from the outside? That is entirely tongue in cheek! We need to be careful I think, that "one big family" does not exclude new people. It can feel a bit "in house" to those outside. It is possible to get very comfortable within Newfrontiers and does that cause our relationships with other Church groups to stagnate? We have all we need "in house" so why bother? I am not saying that happens, I am saying it is a potential pitfall. If we only do our training, go to our conferences and preach in our Churches then are we only part of our body of Christ or the body of Christ?
- Do people actually need to be "friends" first? Does that mean we only work with people we are "comfortable" with? Some of the most exciting and dynamic teams have people who are very different working together. Would we ever get to that stage if it was "all about relationship" because that "relationship" is only ever going to be built up by working together and we won't necessarily choose to work together because we don't have relationship? Is that a vicious circle? Do we end up pooling similar people and not celebrating diversity because of the cost of building friendship across cultural / personality / demographic factors?
- Oops, I thought of a sixth! When it goes wrong, if there are differing views, if there is an issue that causes a divergence in the future, then it is all the more painful because relationships were close. Especially when it feels like people you thought were "friends" turn against you. That is the criticism I hear from people who have left Newfrontiers. Closeness is a double edged sword, expectations are higher. On the one hand lots of things can be sorted out via friendship rather than committees and tribunals. On the other hand if things reach the point of no return in a situation everyone feels let down by each other and that is painful.