How to Launch
Having now covered general implementation issues, a final comparison between new congregations and family life is worth highlighting, in order to cover one specific issue which is relevant to multiplication – the ‘Launch’. Just as leaving a family home to start one’s own family can be fraught with relational complexity, so too is leaving a mother congregation to launch a new, daughter congregation.
Photograph courtesy of @karim_manjra
Any change, however positive, involves a degree of loss. Usually it is the people who have invested the most (i.e. physical parents, or a mother congregation) who feel this loss most acutely. Furthermore, if such loss is fused with insecurity, misunderstandings are likely and relationships can suffer. However, the scale and impact of such troubles are reduced when there are clear expectations and good communication.
Therefore, establishing a family ‘lens’ on what is happening is helpful. It enables a ‘mother’ congregation to see itself as a parent, who is saying ‘farewell’ (but not ‘goodbye’) to one of their adult children. Such family transitions are usually met with both gladness and sorrow, as for an extended family to develop, the nuclear family must disband. All of the relationships can (and should) continue, even though their outward forms are changing.
Photograph courtesy of @louishansel
Having said this, it is not enough to only look at things in a helpful way. Practical steps are also needed to maintain a healthy extended family. For example, if the main leaders of both the new and the mother congregation will commit to their relationship by meeting up on a monthly basis, they will thereby create a healthy mechanism for giving information, receiving support, clearing up misunderstandings and resolving conflicts. This can only be helpful.
However, when no familiar lens is offered, people may create a lens of their own – just to make sense of what is happening. If they only have poorly managed and communicated previous experiences to draw from, this lens may not be positive. They may see the formation of this new congregation as a thinly-veiled church-split, and so only experience the accompanying negative emotions of sorrow, anger and rejection. It can feel like a divorce.
Furthermore, if practical steps to maintain positive and regular communication are not put in place either, the accompanying ‘radio silence’ empowers the imagination to develop a host of sinister narratives. These narratives may be entirely unsubstantiated, but the combination of a negative lens and infrequent contact can lend them an equally unmerited degree of credibility. This can only ever be unhelpful.
Photograph courtesy of @avcreations
Relationships are difficult at the best of times, but this is especially the case when the launch of a new congregation is either recent or immanent. The 12-18 months either side of the ‘launch date’ should be handled with an unusually high degree of care and consideration. As the Apostle Peter writes: ‘Love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4.18). These things can be done well, but this will not be our story if we do them carelessly.