Don’t Go It Alone
Forming Your Community Of Practice
Who is it who is cheering for your church? Who wants to see your church become even more faithful, invigorated, and relevant? Who is walking with you, encouraging you to live into your calling as God’s demonstration plot in your community? Who cares enough to ask about your progress, expecting hopeful answers?
Partnering around transformation…..
We at Pinnacle watch church transformation efforts come and go, with varying degrees of effectiveness. With many, there is a missing link. So many clergy, church staff, lay leaders, and churches feel isolated…like they are going it alone. Certainly they are part of denominations and networks, yet there is insufficient interaction with their tribe around the most important parts of being church. They want and need partners in the journey.
This need for partnership while working toward transformation is what’s driving the formation of Communities of Practice. More churches are laying aside their lone ranger mentality. They are attaching the wide angle lens when looking at the Body of Christ, zooming out to include more than one local church as Christ’s Body.
Communities of Practice, churches working in groups toward transformation, are rising up as we speak. When your church is ready to consider transformation, needing pilgrim partners for that journey, look for these criteria in your Community of Practice.
Form a Covenant Agreement
The Community of Practice we most recently formed is with a group of churches from a mainline denomination. During our Covenanting and Orienting Day, a formal covenant was signed by leaders from every group involved – local churches, denomination, and Pinnacle. We engaged in worship as part of our covenanting process, like our spiritual kin from the past (see Holy Bible) when enacting covenant agreements. We pledged ourselves to mutual encouragement and accountability through responsive prayers. We covenanted to work toward transformation collaboratively for a specific time period, the next two years. This covenant gives shape and support to our common work. Without it we could be committed, yet each of the activities described above in the formation of this covenant made it stronger and more real. Transformation is far more likely due to this living covenant.
Form Around Mission Advancement
Communities of Practice are most helpful when focused on achieving goals or advancing the mission toward specific ends. These are not like support groups, wherein the goal is support. These are working communities, with the expectation of forward movement built in from the beginning. When forming, choose a specific process to guide your collection of churches. The goal is to become our best selves as churches, living into our callings more fully. Communities of Practice experience great support, yet support is one contributor to forward movement.
Practice Encouragement and Healthy Accountability
In Communities of Practice there is giving and receiving. Each church’s role and responsibility is to encourage each other as we move along. When we grow discouraged, believing it’s all going to you-know-where in a hand basket, that’s when we rely on our Community of Practice to strengthen our hearts. Simultaneously, when we go off track, grow apathetic or lazy, or otherwise lose our way, our Community of Practice is there to call us back to mission-congruent living. We need this level of relational connection in order to sustain transformation in church.
Lay Aside Competitive Tendencies
Recently I heard another denominational minister say that churches are in competition with the other churches in their community. Surely this minister knows high percentages of the people in said community do not participate with any church. There could be twenty more churches in that community and the need still exceeds the number of churches. Communities of Practice are not about competition, but about collaborating together toward expansion of God’s kingdom. Through collaboration we are all better and stronger, laying aside the motivation to be better or more attractive than the next church. There are plenty of fish in the pond.
Secure Effective Leadership
Informal Communities of Practice form regularly. There are many kinds of gatherings and groups for clergy and church staff, often self-led. We regularly hear from these groups that their experience significantly improves when professional leadership is secured. Communities of Practice function at their best when informed and experienced leadership guides their collaborative process.
So, may we lay aside the lone ranger mentality, replacing it with body of Christ perspectives. May we make the most of the good gift of community which helps us grow into our best selves as churches.
Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA