Friday, September 20, 2013

Offspring – new missional ventures in New Zealand

Just off the phone from the conference organisers of Offspring. It is a New Zealand Presbyterian initiative, a weekend (Friday 4 – Sunday 6 October 2013) resourcing those in new missional ventures. It will involve sharing stories, learn, reflect, worship, pray together, good food and good company. They had hoped for 40, and are delighted with around 75, most of whom are either trying something, or dreaming. The aim is to share passion, ideas and imagination for the Church and build leadership.

My role is to animate the weekend with some input among four stories of new ventures in New Zealand, workshops, interaction and worship. My input might include (subject to change as the weekend proceeds)

Sustainability in fresh expressions – I will offer my UK research, on sustainability in new forms of church in the UK, and the ways in which the church inherited (Fresh Expressions) has partnered with new ventures on the edge.

Fresh expressions in New Zealand history – I will share some stories from New Zealand mission history. Likely stories include the missio Dei of Tarore, the radical healing stories around the Kaiapoia Pa, the use of Scripture at Parihaka, the urban mission movements around James K Baxter. Then we might use some Australian indigenous storytelling techniques to explore what these stories might teach us for today.

What I’m hearing – an interactive session in which I reflect on the theological, ecclesiological and missional learnings in the four new missional venture stories being told at the weekend.

Where we’re going – a final session in which I’m likely to weave Brendan the Navigator, Luke 10 and the soundbites from the weekend together.

It will be great to be on home soil, albiet only for a weekend, resourcing God’s mission.

Posted by steve at 12:49 PM

Monday, September 09, 2013

pioneers in contexts organisational and cultural

There are three key contributors to entrepreneurial success. They are personality, the culture of the country they live in and the support available to them. (From here)

Worth pondering. It suggests that pioneering talk needs to occur in context – to consider the culture and the organisation.

Regarding personality, the article notes that there is no such thing as an “entrepreneurial personality.” Indeed, there are great variances in psychological makeup of entrepreneurs. This is good news and certainly important given the common stereotypes that hang around the word leader and innovator.

However, pioneers do tend to have some shared characteristics

  • an enjoyment of achievement
  • take personal responsibility
  • exist with higher levels of tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty
  • look for risks
  • see failure as an opportunity for learning

Regarding culture, this is really interesting. I find it intriguing the rise in recent literature in business circles around social entrepreneurship and the rise of the word pioneer in church circles. Our Western culture prizes novelty and so the word pioneer finds coherence. However, down-under cultures add complexity to the word pioneer. In New Zealand, we quickly stomp on tall poppies. In Australia, pioneers died in the desert. They also tended to be male, playing into an outdoor, rather than domestic spirituality. (I’ve written more about this here). So downunder, these layers make pioneering a more complex cultural image to play with.

Regarding support, well for those of us in the Uniting Church who talk about innovation, have a read of this

My vocation carries a cost with it, a cost I am – to a certain extent – willing to pay. But paying that price may cost me more than I can afford … I am left wondering, then, what choices I now have available to me. Can I learn new ways to live within my limited resources that are life-giving and sustainable? Must I choose an occupation that takes me away from a calling that has this year been so profoundly affirmed, in order to extend my financial resources and remove the strain? Are there avenues for support I have not yet explored?

And will my community, the church, be brave and explore these questions with me? For the reality I face, of a limited income and / or multiple occupations, will face more and more ordained and lay ministers called to serve a church with fewer and fewer full time placements available. (From here)

Sarah refuses to accept that creativity and innovation are individual. Rightly (IMHO) and especially for a Uniting church that claims to be inter-connectional, she asks about the place of the organisation in supporting and sustaining innovation.

I sat with someone recently who noted that their church was looking for a 2nd minster who could pioneer something new that in time will pay for their salary. I quietly pointed out that I long for day when that the sustainability of salary applied to the first minister as equally as the incoming pioneering minister.

In sum, only part of pioneering is about the pioneer. They always need to be seen in context – both their cultural and organisational

Posted by steve at 11:26 AM

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gender matters: Startups with women more likely to succeed

Here’s another one in the gender matters series.

Startups with Female Directors Have Better Chance of Survival. Newly incorporated companies with one female director have a 27% lower risk of becoming insolvent than comparable firms with all-male boards, says a team led by Nick Wilson of Leeds University Business School in the UK. The effect decreases as the number of female directors rises, suggesting that what matters is diversity rather than the specific number of women on the board. Past research shows that groups with greater gender diversity generate more-innovative thinking in problem solving.

Source – this piece of research in International Small Business Journal.

For more on gender matters

Posted by steve at 08:49 AM

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the fragility of creativity

On Sunday, on the way from Oxford to Gatwick to Aberdeen, I took some time to enjoy the British Museum, including Room 95, Chinese Ceramics. An entire room, shelf after shelf, wall after wall, of Chinese pottery. An extraordinary range of colours and shapes, tracing changes in style over the centuries.

Chinese ceramics are the most advanced in the world and a recurring word was innovation, the ability to keep refining, adapting, improvising over time.

It was beautiful.

Yet fragile.

Perhaps the two go hand in hand.

Can you have innovation and creativity without fragility? How does it change things if we see our fresh expressions and pioneer leaders as ceramic? Creative and fragile.

And the irony, that at some point creativity needs to be set – fired, painted, presented. You can’t keep deconstructing, playing. Both pottery wheel and kiln are places of creativity. At some point you need to stop. Interesting.

Posted by steve at 11:07 PM

Monday, February 27, 2012

bring back the 1940′s: the church as social pioneer

Amid all the energy around Fresh expressions and pioneering, a colleague last week pointed me toward some writing by Niebuhr, way, way back in 1946, headed “The Church as social pioneer.”

Finally, the social responsibility of the Church needs to be described as that of the pioneer. The Church is that part of the human community which responds first to God-in-Christ and Christ-in-God. It is the sensitive and responsive part in every society and [humankind] as a whole. It is that group which hears the Word of God, which sees His judgments, which has the vision of the resurrection. In its relations with God it is the pioneer part of society that responds to God on behalf of the whole society, somewhat, we may say, as science is the pioneer in responding to pattern or rationality in experience and as artists are the pioneers in responding to beauty. This sort of social responsibility may be illustrated by reference to the Hebrew people and the prophetic remnant. The Israelites, as the major prophets ultimately came to see, had been chosen by God to lead all nations to Him. It was that part of the human [community] which pioneered in understanding the vanity of idol worship and in obeying the law of [love of neighbour]. Hence in it all nations were eventually to be blessed. The idea of representational responsibility is illustrated particularly by Jesus Christ. As has often been pointed out by theology, from New Testament times onward, he is the first-born of many brothers [and sister] not only in resurrection but in rendering obedience to God. His obedience was a sort of pioneering and representative obedience; he obeyed on behalf of humanity, and so showed what all could do and drew forth a divine response in turn toward all the [people] he represented. He discerned the divine mercy and relied upon it as representing [all people] and pioneering for them.

This thought of pioneering or representational responsibility has been somewhat obscured during the long centuries of individualist overemphasis. Its expression in the legal terms of traditional theology is strange and often meaningless to modern ears. Yet with our understanding of the way that life is involved with life, of the manner in which self and society are bound together, of the way in which small groups within a nation act for the whole, it seems that we must move toward a conception similar to the Hebraic and medieval one.

In this representational sense the Church is that part of human society, and that element in each particular society, which moves toward God, which as the priest acting for all [people] worships Him, which believes and trusts in Him on behalf of all, which is the first to obey Him when it becomes aware of a new aspect of His will. Human society in all of its divisions and aspects does not believe. Its institu¬tions are based on unbelief, on lack of confidence in the Lord of heaven and earth. But the Church has conceived faith in God and moves in the spirit of that trust as the hopeful and obedient part of society.

In ethics it is the first to repent for the sins of a society, and it repents on behalf of all. When it becomes apparent that slavery is transgression of the divine commandment, then the Church repents of it turns its back upon it, abolishes it within itself. It does this not as the holy community separate from the world but as the pioneer and representative. It repents for the sin of the whole society and leads in the social act of repentance. When the property institutions of society are subject to question because innocent suffering illuminates their antagonism to the will of God, then the Church undertakes to change its own use of these institutions and to lead society in their reformation. So also the Church be¬comes a pioneer and representative of society in the practice of equality before God, in the reformation of institutions of rulership, and in the acceptance of mutual responsibility of individuals for one another.

In our time, with its dramatic revelations of the evils of nationalism, of racialism and of economic imperialism it is the evident responsibility of the Church to repudiate these attitudes within itself and to act as the pioneer of society in doing so. The apostolic proclamation of good and bad news to [people of colour] without a pioneering repudiation of racial discrimination in the Church contains a note of insincerity and unbelief. The prophetic denunciation of nationalism without a resolute rejection of nationalism in the Church is mostly rhetorical. As the representative and pioneer of [humanity] the Church meets its social responsibility when in its own thinking, organization and action it functions as a world society, undivided by race, class and national interests.

This seems to be the highest form of social responsibility in the Church. It is the direct demonstration of love of God and neighbour rather than a repetition of the commandment to self and others. It is the radical demonstration of faith. Where this responsibility is being exercised there is no longer any question about the reality of the Church. In pioneering and representative action of response to God in Christ the invisible Church becomes visible and the deed of Christ is reduplicated.

Niebuhr, H.R., “The Responsibility of the Church for Society” in The Gospel, the Church and the World ed K.S. Latourette, N.Y. Harper & Bros, 1946, page 111

A number of things I find fascinating. First, pioneer is applied to the community, not the individual. It is the church that is to pioneer, rather than select individuals within the church. And this is framed as a critique of individualism within the church: “This thought of pioneering or representational responsibility has been somewhat obscured during the long centuries of individualist overemphasis.”

Second, the strong sense of mission, the “social responsibility of the Church”, a vision far broader than simply needing a church to grow because the existing one is dying.

Thirdly, the intrinsic inter-relationship between pioneering and the internal life of the church: “the Church meets its social responsibility when in its own thinking, organization and action it functions as a world society, undivided by race, class and national interests.”

Posted by steve at 02:32 PM

Friday, July 08, 2011

pioneer training: well Dave Male said …

We had a great day as a Uniting College staff team yesterday sharing notes on Pioneer training with Dave Male. I suggested a number of questions to get the conversation rolling

  • What should be dropped from training to avoid priest+plus?
  • Should our candidate formation panels (meet 3 x a year with candidate to review training) be separate for pioneers, or mixed?
  • What to do with folk who see pioneer training as “exciting” and want what they see as the juicy bits – church starting, ministry – but show less interest in the core topics like Bible, theology etc?
  • Can we train both lay pioneers and ordinand pioneers in same processes, or are they unique?

Here are some note that I wrote as the conversation proceeded. Some are what Dave said, others emerged in the to and fro of conversation.

“Pioneers need Greek.”

“You can’t create pioneers. But you can domesticate them.”

“Folk should leave college even more excited by their charism than when they arrive.”

“There is no such thing as a generalist in ministry. People are on a spectrum. The task of the church is to help people discern this. The task of training places is to then provide a tailored learning.”

“The goal is not to create a pioneer college but a mixed economy training in which all training is through a mission lens, and within which pioneers find space to explore their questions.”

I left feeling that we at Uniting College are further ahead in some areas (particularly the commitment to do all training through a mission lens and our thinking on how to train both lay and ordained pioneers, not just ordained). But a bit further behind in others (particularly clear discernment/selection processes and the need to establish a cohort experience). (Although, 6 months into intentional, 3 year, training of pioneers, as our second semester starts, we now have 5 folk in the pioneer stream, so almost enough to have a viable cohort.)

We also talked briefly at the end about establishing a formal network between places that are actually training pioneers.

Posted by steve at 10:44 AM