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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Out of a concern for the well-being of our missionaries and teams, we have been working toward the establishment of a “Reconciliation Ministry” over the past year. You have likely observed the devastation that conflict can bring to our community, and sadly it continues to be one reason missionaries leave the field and teams come apart.
Acknowledging that some situations will not be happily resolved, Member Care and Development nonetheless is thankful to now be able to offer a resource to missionaries, leaders, and teams that could potentially help to better navigate conflict. Our prayer is that relationships would not only be healed but made stronger through conflict resolution.
We are not endorsing any formula or program for reconciliation. Instead, field leadership has identified veteran missionaries who have demonstrated giftedness in relational ministry and who have the experience necessary to serve in the capacity of a guide, coach or mediator. These servants have come together for a workshop this year and will continue to walk together and learn from one another as they help their colleagues navigate relational breakdowns.
There have already been several instances where fields have been assisted in some form by this ministry.
Below you will find a more detailed outline of what this ministry is and is not. If you feel that you might benefit from this resource, we urge you to contact the Member Care and Development Department. We will listen attentively, and suggest some next steps.
For Christ and His Kingdom,
firstname.lastname@example.org (private email)
Director, Member Care and Development
MTW Reconciliation Ministry Protocol
We at Mission to the World (MTW) are a fellowship of sons and daughters of the King. In a sense we are a family. As such, the Lord has invited us to cultivate a culture of walking with one another, actively holding out the Gospel of grace to one another, and leaning into difficult conversations, conflict, and offenses with one another in truth and love.
Sometimes, that is hard to do. In fact, sometimes it seems impossible and, in the course of conflict, people wound, or are wounded by, others.
We want to be an organization that promotes healthy, gospel-centered relationships at all levels. To that end, we believe it will be helpful to create a process for reconciliation when the “wheels are coming off” relationships in the field. The goal of the reconciliation ministry, between people on teams, and with our global partners and colleagues, is to give God glory by allowing Him to restore Christian community and missional family life.
The MTW Reconciliation Ministry is being established so that field missionaries, staff, church partners, and/or our national partners can work together, by God’s grace and through the power of His Spirit, to experience the redemptive work of the gospel in relationships. The ministry will strive to recognize the inherent worth and value of all parties involved (1 Cor. 10:14) and will seek to restore all parties to a godly relationship within the Christian communities in which they serve (2 Cor. 13:11). The ministry of reconciliation is an invitation to Christ-like personal humility (Phil 2:1-11), which is the path to which each of us is called.
As the Reconciliation Ministry is initiated, Member Care and Development desires to provide ongoing shepherding, training and resources, for teams and field leadership, in grace-filled resolution pathways. Our hope is that the training and resources, which come from best practices in the areas of conflict resolution and reconciliation, will be field-informed and field-fostered.
A basic outline of the steps or levels of reconciliation ministry follows. As a first step in care, it is hoped that missionaries will make every effort to work through conflicts locally and personally. That would mean initially meeting together one on one with humility, prayerfulness, and a spirit of confession and forgiveness. Whenever a conflict situation is surfaced by the Reconciliation ministry, all effort will be made to work closely with that field's member care leadership. If efforts fail to bring true personal reconciliation, a conflict resolution process, consisting of four possible levels, will be followed:
1) First Level: Coaching - Coaching will be provided by a regionally-recognized member of the Reconciliation Ministry Team. This person would assure that the heart, as well as principles and best practices, of conflict resolution would be learned by both parties from the beginning and be applied throughout the entire process. At this level, the coach would provide training and advice to both parties in an attempt to encourage and facilitate reconciliation. The coach would follow up regularly with the individuals involved in the conflict and, if necessary, could recommend other appropriate steps be taken.
2) Second Level: Mediation – This step would involve individual and/or collective assignments, individual or group accountability, and joint meetings. It is hoped and desired that this step could lead to full and appropriate reconciliation. This level of the reconciliation ministry could include face-to-face time with the coach.
3) Third Level: Arbitration - Should reconciliation not be reached, the coach will consult with other reconciliation team members and will make a recommendation to senior leadership concerning where the parties are stuck. An expanded team comprised of the coach already involved in the process, a recognized coach from another region, together with a trusted individual invited into the process by each conflicted party would be empowered and tasked by senior leadership to assign activities and make recommendations that would, hopefully, move the process forward. If the conflict involves a woman, at least one female will be part of the team. If, during this phase the parties involved are unable to discover an acceptable resolution, subsequent steps may include involving the parties’ home churches and/or pastors/leadership for counsel and feedback. Hopefully, the process will lead to reconciliation. Should this stage in the reconciliation process prove unfruitful, the team will take the next, and final, step in the process.
4) Fourth Level: Transition - The MTW transition committee would be notified that the two parties are no longer able to work together. When the team and the conflicted parties discern that a significant change of assignment would be their recommended course of action, the team would refer one or both of the parties to the Transition Committee. The Transition Committee could recommend anything from reassignment, to LOA, to possible recall, to the involvement of one of the church courts or other action.
Note: Please know that this process, and the team that facilitates it, is not a forum to discuss disagreements about team strategy or field leadership decisions, nor is it a local team performance review. This process is simply a resource to be employed when there is a breakdown in community among friends, colleagues, and partners.