There comes a time in the life of a young congregation, even one that is intentionally “light on its feet” and flows fairly organically, when you have to take a step back and get organized a bit. There comes a time when you have to take a step back and look at all the work being done by the congregation. Who is doing that work? How is it going for them individually? What about the work energizes them and what doesn’t? How is it going for us collectively? How could this work be shared? What are the places where the congregation is channeling most of its energy? Where are the gaps?
This important step back for reflection can be called, “getting the system in the room.” It’s a way of taking a 30,000 foot view of all the work that is being done and provides an opportunity for some deepened organization and intention to the work that is ongoing. Additionally, this step back can provide an opportunity for new initiative in other areas, often from new and developing leaders.
Our two and a half year old congregation currently channels most of its energy into social justice work; worship on Sunday mornings; and trying to find ways to make our way towards one another during the week – for dinner, drinks, sometimes spiritual practice, but mostly for the sake of friendship.While we are thrilled to be channeling so much of our energy into justice and community building, two areas that can often feel neglected by older more established systems, we recently discovered a gap that those older more established systems are often able to fill quite seamlessly. We will call that gap “community care.”
When two households in our small congregation faced adversity in the same week, we quickly realized that we had not yet established a way of coordinating care for one another; nor had we established any norms around how we would respond to one another and be near to one another during difficult times like the death of a family member, or recovery from an invasive surgery.
When our leadership group took a step back to reflect upon that a bit, we decided that we would like to be able to be more responsive and more available to one another during times of adversity. We decided that in addition to our emphasis upon taking care of others, we needed to be sure that we were taking good care of one another, and that in order to do that more effectively we needed to get organized a bit.
In response, we have invited members of the congregation to consider volunteering to provide some development and coordination to establishing a system of community care; and we have even suggested that we would be willing to offer a small stipend to someone to get this up and running if that is an incentive that would be helpful to them.
At Beloved Community Mennonite Church, we intend for administration to be fairly low on the totem pole of the work that is being done by our community, but as we walk this path together, we realize that sometimes we’ve got to take some steps to organize our systems a bit so that we can live into our values more fully. At BCMC, we intend to build a resilient system, one that is able to adapt and change in order to provide life to the individuals and community that find themselves within the system.
It is important to keep that in mind – systems are established to serve the good of the community and the values of the community, and not the other way around. We don’t exist to serve our systems, our systems are designed to serve us and to enable us to live into our values more deeply. If a system cannot do that, then it is not an effective system, and a community should be able to move on from that system while maintaining their commitment to one another. Sometimes we’ve got to take a step back and get organized a bit in order to enable our systems to serve us in the appropriate way, so that we can be who we want to be with and for one another.