One of the most exciting parts of leading a community of people is bringing everyone together around a collective goal. Leading people on mission is a gift that requires much stewardship and an understanding of the dynamics of how people work together. Although this offers many opportunities to see team members thrive in their individual giftings, a question remains: how do we navigate the complexities of bringing a community of people to deeper levels of faith when each person is at a different place on their journey?
Author Jean Vanier states in his book From Brokenness to Community:
“Then Jesus calls his friends into community with others who have been chosen for the same path. This is when all the problems begin! We see the disciples squabbling among themselves, wondering who is the greatest, the most important among them! Community is a wonderful place, it is life-giving; but it is also a place of pain because it is a place of truth and growth – the revelation of our pride, our fear, and our brokenness.” (1992,10)
Vanier goes on to explain how bringing people together in community does not create problems but instead reveals them. When people come together in communion, it is a place where the ego goes to die, sin is revealed, and in turn resurrection occurs.
Community can be a scary place.
It can be even more intimidating when you’re one of the leaders trying to guide others to a place of openness and transformation. The beautiful piece of this is that as leaders we do not need to appear to have it all together. In fact, Jesus calls us to lower ourselves, not to elevate (Phil 2:6-8). Leading in the way of transparency and not from the way of “climbing up the social ladder” enables others to do the same. It takes away the competition. It provides a space of belonging and one where everyone can come forth on their own individual journeys to navigate the unknown waters together. Vanier states, “To be in communion with someone means to walk with them.” If we walk with one another then we will not only help others reach deeper levels of growth, but in turn we will be participants in God’s sanctifying work, not merely observers.
When you belong to a community that walks in openness, you are making the choice to step into transformation. Community reveals the dark places in our hearts and calls us forth to look in the mirror at who we are becoming. Are we becoming like the world around us? Or will we relinquish our jealousy, greed, anger and judgment in order to become more like Christ?
When these become our guiding questions, leading others in their journey no longer becomes about managing differences but instead embracing life together. It is a way other than our own and it is a way to experience freedom and wholeness as one body.
Making it real
When I was newly married and first entering my coaching ministry, I was encouraged by my wife to create a small group with some other guys with whom I wanted to do life together. So, I contacted some guys and we started meeting on a weekly basis to do some kind of Bible study. As time moved forward, we shared some really great times together: lunches, backpacking trips. couple’s date nights and various other outings. Those relationships that started over two decades ago still continue today. Even though our lives and our zip codes have changed, the bond still remains.
Whether you are starting a small group or ministry team, it is important to create a culture where people feel safe. A culture that makes people feel valued. A culture with purpose. Here are 5 questions that can help you learn and apply ways to build authentic and lasting community with the people in your circles.
5 Questions for reflection
- How can we encourage our team or community members to not “climb the social ladder” but instead lower themselves?
- As a leader, are there ways you separate yourself from the group you are leading?
- What groups have you been a part of that challenge you to live authentically?
- What did you learn from that experience?
- What principles can you bring into this group?
1 (1992, 10)
2 (Vanier, 1992, 30)
3 (Vanier, 1992, 16)