Wednesday, December 08, 2010

funding pioneer projects: seven options

One of the questions I often get asked is about funding pioneers and pioneer projects. So I thought it worth while gathering my thoughts around various possibilities. Like much of life, none is ideal, and each has upsides and downsides. So I have added some comments to this effect.

1 – Church support. Sometimes church trusts and bodies give out large sums of money which enable pioneers to work full-time on their project over a number of years. This can be a wonderful blessing. However it can tend to be unreproducible model and can come with a whole set of expectations about what “success” looks like. It is also questionable how wise this model is in the early stages of a project, in which the setting up is often at more of a part-time pace.

2 – Team support. In a manner similar to many mission agencies, this involves inviting people to contribute toward your mission, whether through regular small giving or through one-off donations. It can be oiled by a “3rd party” that sends out the newsletter, collects money and writes receipts. It is helped by regular communication between the “missionary” and those who give. This has the advantage of building a wider partnership in the mission.

3 – Church partnerships. In which other churches partially partner in the new mission project through finances. So in the New Zealand Baptist world, a local church and the wider church partner 50/50, in a sliding scale, for a set time. Specifically $5K each in the year one, $4K each in year 2 and so on. This builds a wider set of church relationships and seeks to reduce dependancy. However it can come with a whole set of expectations about what “success” looks like (Has it grown yet!)

4 – Tentmaking. Like the Apostle Paul, the pioneer can choose not to be paid by the ministry and instead to look for paid work from elsewhere. It can increase the sense of lay ministry partnership, reduce dependency on one leader and encourage a more grounded and sustainable spirituality. But it leaves less time for ministry and can be dependent on the ability of the leader to find soul nourishing work.

5 – From changed lives. If the point of pioneering is to see lives changed and people becoming Kingdom agents, then an expectation is that at some point life change might involve the wallet and thus people might give to the new church. Surely discipleship – whether financial, time, or talent is part of Kingdom discipleship and should be built in from the beginning of the project. Over time, this can provide a source of funding for the church. However, it takes wisdom and sensitivity so that this is introduced properly.

6 – Social entrepreneurship. This involves some form of money raising activity, for example running a cafe, selling spiritual resources (poetry books!), which generates income for the pioneering project. Indeed, a well chosen project can build the community, enhance the mission and aid in promotion. But it is important to be realistic, given that most (80%) of business startups go broke in the first two years. So why should yours be any different. Further, there is a danger that outward energy will be spent on the project, rather than the overall mission of the group.

7 – Funding proposals. Many public bodies give money to causes. For example community arts, or community development. This requires research to find trusts with aims that mesh with the genuine aims of the pioneer. It can be a great challenge to write a proposal in a way that expresses your ministry in the form of “public good.” However it takes time to write funding proposals and it can breed a reliance on external funding.

From my experience a mix and match options is often the reality. Thoughts? Have I missed any options that you have seen work?

Posted by steve at 03:02 PM

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

ordinations making the secular media

Sunday’s ordination has resulted in media articles in the Advertiser (South Australia’s morning newspaper) and The Australian (Australian wide).

Both focus on the numbers being ordained (19 this year) and the (youthful) age. The Australian has some great quotes from two of those being ordained:

“I think science and Christianity are very complementary to each other. They’re both about exploring God’s world and trying to see the best in it.” Dr Callen (molecular biologist and now minister)

“For me, I don’t feel called to a church in the way it has been, but in a new form of church.” Sara Agnew and planter of The Esther Project

For the record, the Advertiser is just plain wrong when it says that “All 19 ministers ordained this year are under 40 and two are women.” The fact is that of the 5 ordained on Sunday, all were under 40 and two were women. Over the year, the gender spread was pretty even, as was the age range.

For those interested, here is the sermon I preached at Sunday’s ordination.

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM

Sunday, December 05, 2010

ordination sermon: creationary re John the Baptist

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

I had the privilege of being asked to preach at the Uniting Church ordination of five folk today. For those interested, here is the sermon. A story, some theology and integration with U2′s Stand up comedy. (Since it is also based on the lectionary text for the day (Matthew 3:1-12), John the Baptist, I’ve added it to the creationary). (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:33 PM

Saturday, December 04, 2010

journey through advent: am I travelling well?

The art piece intrigued me. Positioned inside Spicer Uniting Church were three lifesized cutouts. Each was holding three bicycles. Faceless, they could be any human, about to embark on any adventure.

The art piece was a gift for Advent. Three humans, embarking on an adventure. Which got me thinking about the Magi.

The Magi appear in Matthew 2. The best translation is magician, sorcer, astrologer. There is considerable historical evidence of intense interest in stars and how the relate to world events at the time of Jesus. So we’re dealing there with a world in which people watched the stars in order to get a sort of heads up on significant matters.

I’d always seen the Magi as “them.” Strange, exotic. But looking at the art piece, I began to wonder, what if the Magi were “us”; were “me”? A human embarking on an adventure.

Magi are using their star seeking skills, committed to watching their world, and to seek God’s leading, whatever that might cost.  So the Magi’s journey through Advent, asks us some questions about how well I’m travelling.

  • First, it’s so much easier to guide a moving boat. So this Advent, am I moving? Or am I actually simply seated?
  • Second, this Advent how much attention am I, like the Magi, paying to the world around me. This Advent, how attentive am I to this moment, this place, this conversation?
  • Third, for a Jew, following the stars was a form of idol worship. So by including the Magi, Matthew is telling us that all sorts of people can seek Jesus. (Not always from folks we’d prefer.) This Advent, how open am I to unexpected people among whom God might be at work?

This post is part of an Advent synchroblog, titled journey through Advent.

Posted by steve at 04:57 PM

Friday, December 03, 2010

taking some ordination theology for a spin

So on Sunday I’m preaching at the ordination of five Uniting church ministers – all bright and brand, shiny, new like. It will bring to 20 the number of ministers ordained here in South Australia this year. Which is exciting and has left us all wondering what God is up to among us.

Anyhow, my privilege is to preach and the Lectionary text is Matthew 3:1-12, which is about John the Baptist’s – the wildman “pioneer leader” – and his call for repentance and baptism. How to apply the narrative of John the Baptist to ordination?

So after much pondering, and some reading, I wonder if the text offers us a way of viewing ordination as

an invitation to share in the processes of baptism
of ourselves,
and others,
as a life long journey shaped by Christian practices
that remind us of
God’s absence (how unlike God we are) – eyes open to the world – how we allocate our resources
and presence (how much God likes us) – hands open to God – forgive our sins.

I’m drawing here from Augustine’s concept of double almsgiving – forgive and it will be forgiven and how we allocate our resources), as outlined in Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology) and Rowan Williams understanding of church in Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin.

Those are my current thoughts. Feedback welcome.

Posted by steve at 02:59 PM

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rejoice! U2 are back in town. U2 360 Melbourne concert review

They came with new songs – Return of the Stingray Guitar and Mercy – suggesting a band still enjoying the simple pleasure of being creative.

They came with old, playing songs from 10 of their albums. (There is nothing from Zooropa or Pop, but a fantastic Bono performance of Miss Sarejevo, a reminder of just how wide remains the span of his vocal range). Streets and With or Without You were standouts.

They also came with old songs new. In countless concerts over the last decade, Bono has invited prayer for the release of Aung San Suu Ky. With her recent freedom, U2 have turned to Scarlet, a song from their 1981 album, October. Never before has it been played live in concert. Suddenly the lyrics, “rejoice” become remarkably poignant, with the gathered crowd invited to give thanks for answered prayer.

Despite the songs, the take home memory remains the “claw.” Brilliantly lit, it manages through state of the art video and sound to bring a sense of intimacy to stadium rock. As if Bono needed any help to loom larger than life!

The theme is time, with constant ticking visual reminders, supported by video footage from back in time: U2 archival material from the Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. It ensures the entire show has an overall theme, that of the invitation to walk on in time.

Not all was perfect. U2 are skilled at employing call and response to generate connection between band and audience. This ensures some remarkable moments – 60,000 Australians singing of Amazing Grace and confessing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” It also ensures some glitches, with some of Bono’s calls simply too complicated for a corporate sung response.

The opening bracket lacked cohesion. Despite a promising start – “Gidday” in perfect Australian before winding the crowd into Beautiful Day – the opening grouping of songs seemed to stutter. This has been a constant struggle in this 360 tour. (For my review of their Raleigh concert, see here). In Melbourne, Magnificent felt too early, a beat starting to slow before the audience had been effectively gathered.

This lack was overcome by the meditative middle three of Bad, In A Little While and Miss Sarajevo, accentuating the spectacular burst into City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo. Offering the chance to simply rejoice, U2 are back in town.

Posted by steve at 12:09 PM

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fresh expressions as church at Advent birth

I’ve been working hard over the last few weeks on an article for the Anvil journal, titled Evaluating Birth narratives: A Missiological Conversation with Fresh Expressions. It’s the write up of what I presented in September in Durham in which I interview UK alternative worship leaders and communities about how they began, and then reflect on implications for being church/ecclesiology.

In trying to make sense of what I was writing on Friday, I made the following graphic, based on the Orans Icon.

And here is a section of the paper, which I post because we are now in Advent.

The most likely place to find a birthing ecclesiology should be with regard to Incarnation. Indeed, for Williams, in Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin “[i]magining Mary in words and pictures has always been one of the most powerful ways of imagining the Church, and so of imagining ourselves freshly.” This is based on a theological meditation on Orthodox icons, specifically The Hodegetria, The Eleous and The Orans.

With regard to the Orans Icon, Mary stands facing us, hands extended in prayer. For Williams, “Here is Christ praying in Mary. Mary becomes, as the Church becomes, a ‘sign’ in virtue of the action of Christ within her … There is plenty here for us to think about in relation to the Church’s life.” Given that “the art of making icons is often termed “writing” rather than “painting”, such an Icon offers what could be termed a birthing ecclesiology, in which the body of Christ is linked with the Body of Christ, most specifically in the pre-natal life of Christ. (here)

Williams’ ecclesiology is formed in the invitation to consider Mary; hands open to God, with eyes open to the world. “If Mary is indeed the image of the true Church … [it is a church] … Hands open to God, eyes open to the world; and within, the hidden energy that soaks the Church with divine action, divine love.” Further, “[t]he church is the humanity Christ has made possible; its real history is the history of particular persons realizing by the Spirit’s gift the new potential for human nature once it has been touched by divine agency, divine freedom, in Christ.” This provides a way to evaluate Fresh Expressions.

With a (birthing) Mary as an image, so can (the birthing) of Fresh Expressions be evaluated by considering how it imitates the posture of Mary, hands open to God, eyes open to the world, a gift of new potential.

Posted by steve at 07:58 AM