Conflict is one of the principle avoidable reasons for mission workers leaving the field, whether conflict within their own team or with their agency leadership. This issue is a chronic festering ulcer in the missions world, which has existed since the dawn of missions nearly 2000 years ago (Acts 15:39), and will in all probability continue till its end, though that is no reason to not to try to resolve the situation.
I’ve recently met with a lot of people going through transition. Whether they are leaving a posting, parting company with their sending agency, closing a ministry, going to a new country… people in mission relocate frequently and are no strangers to change.
18 years ago, I began my journey into HR and member care in a mission organisation in Nepal. I thought it would be a walk in the park compared to HR in the NHS. Surely there would be no workplace disputes or team issues?! How wrong I was. However, I’m clearly not the only one who recognises that conflict is alive and causing dysfunction in mission today, given the full house at the recent GC Member Care Forum which looked at ‘Differences and Disagreements’.
When we think of multi-cultural teams it is often tempting to focus on nationality or heart language, but there are also many other factors that contribute to the cultures that individuals bring into a team, like ecclesiology, socio-economic background, gender, marital status, level of education and generation. These all affect the often-unconscious assumptions people bring to how things should be done, and what is valued.Read more
Have you noticed that mission workers are often expected to be spiritually self-sufficient, able to sustain themselves by feeding on God’s word alone, with little or no access to relevant church or fellowship groups? Curiously, the people who assert this are often those who tell Christians that they cannot survive spiritually without regularly attending church meetings, Bible studies, home groups…. Why are mission workers expected to be so different?
The truth is that most of us are not different. We struggle to maintain our spiritual vitality without friends around us. Our spiritual disciplines can fail under the pressure of demands on us. We can become discouraged when we labour long in the mission field with apparently little result. We dry up inside, and our relationship with God can be little more than going through the motions.Read more
“Resilience in member care is an important idea, but when I began looking I found that lots of areas of study have been wrestling with the idea of resilience. We just need to tap into it.”
The student giving this presentation was voicing a frustration that is familiar and important. Knowledge and ideas tend to sit in silos of information that often do not interlink. Sometimes a certain silo will become quite excited about a certain idea or approach and it will swirl in a vortex of excitement and newness. If enough energy is gathered it sometimes spills over into other areas, but all too often it doesn’t and just stays in one area.
We all know the idea of safety in numbers, whether it’s herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Serengeti, or shoals of mackerel avoiding predators like tuna. But we might not have noticed that trees do the same. A few tree species produce winged seeds that catch the wind and fly far away, but most, like the oak, produce heavy ones that don’t fall far from the parent tree, so that they can build up a forest around them for protection.
I recently stayed overnight in a typical British guesthouse where breakfast was an interesting experience. Not because of the food, service or facilities, but due to the interesting social interaction – or lack thereof.
In a small dining room where guests sat at separate but adjacent tables, conversation was curiously stilted, as people were aware that their private discussions were being overheard. A men’s football team tried to joke with each other about the previous night’s escapades without incurring the scorn of other guests. A harassed father tried hard to keep his disobedient toddler under control without losing his temper. A browbeaten woman took the opportunity to chide her husband at a time when he couldn’t answer her back.
It occurred to me that often conversations between mission partners can be similar. We often refrain from saying the things that we’d really like to because we are aware that others are listening. We don’t like to disagree in case we sow the seeds of dissent, or act as a bad witness in front of others. So we bottle up the things we’d really like to say, and if we don’t blurt them out in a fit of self-indulgence they can build up inside us to such a point of frustration that they contribute significantly to our levels of stress.