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Collaboration builds up. Competition can tear down. How can we collaborate rather than compete? 

Because of historic migration and immigration patterns CRC congregations are often clumped. Even though competition can be a good thing for some markets, it is most often not good between churches within a Classis. 

There can sometimes be a unhealthy dynamic between CRC churches in close proximity. Because there has been such strong denominational loyalty and identity sometimes members will play one church or pastor off another one. “If you don’t satisfy me or give into my demand on this certain issue I’ll transfer to the OTHER CRC just across town!” 
Sometimes sheep transferring to a different pen is a good thing, sometimes it isn’t. 
Sometimes it’s good for CRC congregations to differentiate in one geographical community in a variety of ways. Sometimes they can differentiate on worship styles, sometimes they can differentiate on ministry specialties, sometimes they can differentiate on target audiences. What is NOT healthy is when they compete over members. 
It is easy to get into the bad habit of competition. When pastor’s or leader’s egos or identities get wrapped up in their ministries it is easy to see other pastors or churches as rivals or threats to valued goals. When congregations derive their identity from worshipping attendance, program prominence, budget size, or the prestige of membership envy and alienation can develop. 
As we were developing the Sacramento cluster one of the values we continued to articulate was the value of being non-possessive about ministry assets. All of our ministries are need and fragile to one degree or another. Over time people will migrate between congregations. All of the pastors in the cluster are tempted to derive their identities from their ministries. At the same time we realize that our ministry footprint is tiny compared to the magnitude of the challenge of bearing witness to Jesus in this city. 
Part of what helps us to foster a spirit of collaboration rather than competition is meeting together monthly as a group to support one another, resource each other, and build community and identity within the group. If we invest in the group as a whole then wins or transfers that happen within the system can be celebrated by all. 
I realize that our cluster is not a classis but in some ways it serves as a sub-classis or mini-classis and I think is affording us a picture of some of what classis should be. 
Is there competition or collaboration in your classis or geographical community? Have you seen a spirit of competition develop and hurt the churches in your community? What can you do to help your community see that we are not competing against each other but rather are all working towards the same goals? 


Paul, I know there are risks associated with the dynamics of cluster-like groups, but it sounds to me as though this meeting is serving a really important purpose of relationship building and brainstorming, building community that can undergird and support the classis when it does its formal business.   Hurrah for you!

The building of strong investment in the "common good" rather than the competitive spirit also sounds good to me.  I sometimes think that in areas where there is a pocket of CRC folk, (the clumps you speak of),  and overall CRC church attendance may be declining, the temptation to get competitive is stronger than ever.  We become afraid when we feel our pool shrinking, and one powerful antidote is strong and healthy community among the leadership.  Hurrah for you!

The temptation to identify with my own leadership role, and feel valued as a person depending on my "success" - that's a huge temptation in my experience.  If you leaders are meeting that head on and helping each other to deal with it, I say Hurrah for you!

The challenges and the opportunities are so big, and our classical networks are so frail, we really shouldn't take time or energy to compete.  You are building networks.  Hurrah for you!!

PS  Wherever there are clumps, I suppose there are Klompen.

Paul VanderKlay on October 25, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for the encouragement. I consider myself enormously fortunate and blessed by the ministry partners both in my cluster and in my classis. I know in many ways what I enjoy is uncommon and that is unfortunate. 

Having this kind of network also makes it hard to leave and easy to stay, which builds identity, history, community and capacity. Strength leads to strength. I know there are other places where this is happening. I hope it increases. pvk

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