Thursday, August 09, 2012

this is the house the team built

I led my first ever team retreat day today at Uniting College. We began with a focus on our giftedness.

In preparation, I had given each of the team a wooden shape (found in the craft section at Spotlight last week). I had then asked each of us to come to the retreat prepared to share three things we think we bring to the Uniting College team. To enhance collegiality, we had also drawn the names of one other person on the team out of a hat last week and been invited to come prepared to share three things they brought to the team.

Today the process went as follows
- each person shared the 3 things they thought they brought
- each person placed their wooden shape on a table in the middle
- each person heard from another in the team what they brought

Which left us feeling vulnerable in sharing and affirmed in hearing. And a pile of wooden shapes on the table.

As I had hoped, over a break, a group gathered around the table and began trying to fit them together. Which they did – into table and chairs. Working together, we became something greater than the sum of our individuality.

Which then produced a great discussion (ie spontaneous yet planned learning moment). About how a team is more than just a pile of gifted individuals who happen to be in the same place. About how a piece was missing – because a team is always losing people and gaining people, always needing to rebuild. About how if their was no missing piece, then the team would be perfect and there would no room for growth and development.

Leading team building retreats creatively. I think it’s one of the gifts I bring to a team :)

Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The gift of forgiveness

This week we begin a new course here at Uniting College. It’s called The gift of forgiveness. It was historically an ethics course but in the new Bachelor of Ministry, we’ve retooled it, wanting to give it a grounding in contemporary realities.

My sense, from pastoral ministry and intuitively from a missiological perspective, is that forgiveness is a topic that touches us in so many ways – individually, in our families, in our churches, among cultures, as we consider colonisation. So the course will be bringing these real life realities into conversation with Christian understandings of forgiveness and justice.

Today I was preparing, enjoying being back with Miroslav Volf and his thinking – Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation and The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World. Both are superb, the first exploring the question of “How can you forgive?” the second exploring the question of “Do you forgive and forget?”

Alongside the books, here he is on video

Posted by steve at 12:08 AM

Monday, August 06, 2012

the potential of limits for creativity

“We’ve always used the limitations of the band as a creative tool almost.”

– Edge

It’s a fascinating quote by U2′s The Edge, in which limits and limitations are realised as essential in the creative process.

Twice recently I’ve seem limitations unleash creativity. Here’s one moment.

On Thursday I led the team through a creative brainstorming process. I was greeted with the news as I became Principal that heading into 2013 we as a College needed to generate another $100,000. We discussed this as a team and decided this was a “we” challenge, rather than an “I” or a “they” challenge.

In other words, rather than give it to a single person or a representative group, this was a challenge we wanted to face together.

We agreed to a process. We would go away for a week to prayer and ponder. We would each return to share one idea, along with a monetary figure. It was one of the best meetings I’ve been part of in a long time, with a range of outstandingly creative ideas placed on the table. We are now work shopping each of the ideas. But if even half of them came to reality, we would be a very, very different College.

The limits – of funds – had opened up our collective creativity.

Often we imagine that creativity emerges when we have unlimited time and unlimited resources. Perhaps the converse is true – that creativity materialises when we have limits, and when these limits are faced in community.

Posted by steve at 09:08 PM

Saturday, August 04, 2012

multi-sensory worship at mission shaped ministry Adelaide 2012

A second week of mission shaped ministry course on Thursday evening.

Each week includes worship. We have a commitment to try and worship in ways that don’t include singing. This is not because singing is not important. But it tends to be a default in Christian gatherings. And since mission shaped ministry course is about exploring new possibilities, it seemed appropriate to place some limits, in the hope of generating creativity.

It certainly worked in Week 2. One of the pioneer leaders training at Uniting College, and a candidate for ordained ministry, Karen Paull, led. She had prepared a central table, on which was a compass. We were invited to gather based on our location in Adelaide. In groups we were invited to reflect on our context:

  • Where were the weeds in our communities?
  • Where were the good things?

This led into prayer. Weeds were placed in the blue rubbish bin as an act of confession and intercession, while candles were lit for the goodness of the Christ-life. Finally, in benediction, we each took rosemary, which if placed in water in our homes, will grow roots and can be planted, an expression of us going to grow, to take root, to be the fragrance of Christ in our communities.

In 15 minutes, so many senses were engaged – smell of rosemary, hearing as we listened to those around us, touching in the candle lighting, seeing as we reflected on our communities. All amid classic Christian worship practices – of praise, confession, intercession, benediction. All within the framework of mission – gathering for and on behalf of our communities.

A rich, rich evening.

Posted by steve at 10:23 AM

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

the limitations of single emotion churches

I had a wonderful afternoon with leaders from the Grace network today. It was my first speaking gig as Principal among Uniting Church leaders and needless to say, I woke early, nervous and prayerful.

The Grace network had asked me join them to reflect on mission. I did three things with them.

First, I used the Jesus Deck to engage Matthew 9:36ff. Those gathered offered some great insights and it was wonderful to see the way, once again, that the Jesus Deck opens up such rich conversation.

Second, I suggested a missiological reading of Matthew 9:36ff. I noted the link between compassion, prayer and the sending of the disciples. In other words, mission began with the emotion of compassion. I noted other emotion words around Jesus – anger, love, sorrow – and pointed out how each led to a different expression of mission – anger led to mission as justice-making, love led to mission as disciple-making, sorrow led to mission as intercession.

I suggested that at times the Uniting Church came across as a single emotion church. Some parts make a big deal of justice, but seem to be less passionate about disciple-making or prayer for healing. Other parts make a big deal of proclamation, but seem less passionate about justice. In contrast, the mission of Jesus was wholistic in emotional and mission.

Third, I invited group work on what it might mean to help people mature in their feelings and this generated a lot of excellent discussion (shaped by what I blogged last week regarding A Question of Principal 4). Hopefully I left them with some sense of what is shaping me as Principal – growing people in mission. I certainly left richer for having been with folk working so closely and carefully with people and congregations. On the way, I was asked for some helpful books …

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM