We restarted the Nintendo Wii during lockdown after a gap of several years. The Wii fit ‘fun’ activities are gentle exercise to give us a break but maybe they also provide illustrations for some of the key challenges as I sit at my desk.
Tilt table. The aim is to tilt the table so the balls drop through the holes. To do this requires balancing several things without allowing the balls to drop over the edge. Sound familiar? Over the last 18 months I’ve developed a fresh appreciation for the art of balancing different aspects of charity and other regulations. There’s data protection (GDPR), the fundraising regulator and accounting rules that apply to every charity. Then there’s employment law whose tentacles cover those who think they are self-employed mission workers, or volunteers, as well as regular employed staff. And who could forget our old friends safeguarding and health & safety. None of these are bad in themselves, but when added onto the requirements of charities to have a strategy, sound financial and risk management systems, all makes for a significant challenge. Sometimes it seems a lot of work just to limit liability and benefit from Gift aid!
Hula hoops. You have to keep gaining hoops but then keep them all spinning, faster and faster to get the highest score. The downside of all of the charity requirements, the systems for finance and the need for employed staff is that you have a significant operation that needs funding. This needs effort to keep it going. There’s no doubt that all these things provide benefits to people serving the mission, and without them we would be poorer, but it does make you wonder what would happen if we just stopped the music and let the hoops fall to the floor. Nevertheless, my challenge is to keep it all going.
Soccer header. You keep heading the balls, but need to miss the pandas, boots and other junk! The trick is to know what’s important (the balls) and to avoid the other stuff. And in a mission organisation the important things are the people who we are seeking to serve in the UK and other countries, those whose lives might be improved or transformed through the work we do, those who come to faith in Christ and live for him. The structures of member care, finance, donor support and the people who work to provide them are important but they are not the main thing. If we make them the main thing we are not heading the right balls. My challenge is to keep my eye on the ball and focus on the real goals.
Balance bubble. You move your bubble through the course without hitting the sides. Moving an organisation forward is not easy. There are lots of sides to bang into. There are lots of hazards that can burst our bubble and block our progress. 2020 has been full of them. Just like the Wii game there are periods where you are navigating in the dark and not sure which way to go. My objective is to navigate the hazards, discern what’s right and keep moving toward it.
I love working for a mission organisation. I think we are trying really hard to get things right, and have a brilliant team of committed, gifted and talented people. We have a great team of Trustees who grapple with many of the governance questions, including future strategy and direction. But as I look ten years into the future I wonder…….
- Will the benefits of being a charity, with gift aid and all the rest, be worth it?
- As patterns of mission support change will we be able to send people to engage in a different country and culture long term?
- What do churches in the UK and around the world need from mission agencies?
- Will mission agencies be the vehicle for engaging people in cross cultural mission, enabling Christians across the world to go to those who don’t know Jesus, speaking up for justice and the ways of the Lord? Or will other structures emerge to do these things in fresh ways? The fact that churches elsewhere send people without the same structures or organisations shows us that there are other ways of doing this.
I’m sure the linking of people and churches across continents will continue, I’m confident the need for mission communities, where we help and support each other to engage in cross cultural mission, will continue. I’m hopeful that the UK church will keep seeing the need to participate in global mission.
The journey ahead will require more than a Wii balance board (as a community prayer is a key component to who we are). But it will need us to balance engaging people with God’s mission across the world, building community across cultures and countries, equipping people to serve effectively in tough situations over the long haul. How we do these things may well change a lot.
And finally, as well as encouraging you to take a break from zoom and working at your desk, I’d draw your attention to the Wii flying chicken (or whatever it is) which requires you to flap a lot, makes very little progress and is hard to get to land on the goal. Don’t be that chicken.