Sunday, 17 May 2009

It is all about relationship! NEGATIVES

In my last post I post the question: is it really "All about relationship"?

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.
I don't think any of these are majorly prevalent issues we face, but I do think it is good to discuss the way some of these processes work. I am thoroughly blessed to be part of a movement of Churches which is "all about relationship" but I thought it was worth raising some of the potential issues.


dave bish said...

With UCCF I think most of our staff are recruited relationally, people who've been involved in things are the kind of people who will want to give years of service....

...but once in a while an application process unearths someone who was only a friend of a friend of a friend... extending beyond the well known and the locality of friends and the result is brilliant, inevitably creating new friendships and releasing growth.

Sometimes I need to be able to get a step beyond those I know to bring in some fresh perspective or to be able to go further than I could before...

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

Sometimes I need to be able to get a step beyond those I know to bring in some fresh perspective or to be able to go further than I could beforeSpot on. I don't want "relational" to turn into "closed".

Jongudmund said...

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?I don't think this is just a New Frontiers thing. I can think of plenty of situations where peopel 'get ahead' based on who they know.

For example, someone appointed to a senior post in a Christian national charity who had no experience of managing at that level and no experience in the project area. Was it coincidence that she was married to the son of a famous church leader, a son who had spent some time as an intern at said charity and was quite chummy with the CEO because of his famous dad?

Erwin MacManus asks the interesting question about whether churches appoint on the basis of perceived 'gifting' rather than character. I'd say a number of Christian organisations appoint on the basis of 'gifting' ie being well-known for what you do.

Your sixth point is the worst one to have to endure (having left a relationally-focussed church where the relationships went horribly awry).

Glennsp said...

I agree it can go very wrong. I am part of a Newfrontiers Church (17 years and counting) and I have encountered some very sad scenarios. I had one overseer (of two Small Groups) tell me that "no one has the right to expect care from anyone until they have made good friends in the Church".
When I tried to point out that Gods Word said otherwise he dismissed it by saying "I am dealing in reality".

When I raised this with an Elder he agreed with me that this was not good, but then when he discussed it with his 'dear long term friend' the overseer all the overseer had to say was "oh, he misunderstood" and that was that, I was suddenly in the wrong.

As a postscript to the above; some months and a few conversations later the overseer reluctantly admitted that he 'might' have got it a bit wrong.

Some other overseers are only in the role because of who they knew and they were willing to take it on rather than because they had any pastoral gifting.

Let me quickly say that this is not an outpouring of pent up venom (I am still in the same Church with the same overseer), but a real life scenario where 'relationships' worked against the situation.
Let me also say that there are many good gifted people filling roles that truly bless my Church and the wider body at many levels.

As you have rightly pointed out it can go either way.