Tuesday, March 08, 2011

a little pause to celebrate: the missional masters begins

Yesterday was for me a bit of milestone, which at the risk of being self-indulgent, I am pausing to mark.

Yesterday the Missional Masters cohort began and for 2.5 hours, I sat with a group of church leaders. Together we wrestled with Luke 10 and found ourselves both encouraged and challenged by the expression of mission. We began a conversation with Graham Ward, Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice searching for theological themes that might make sense of our passion – to be change agents, fueled by a Kingdom vision, in and amongst ordinary churches around Australasia. We agreed on a common practice, to spend the next weeks collecting stories of the Kingdom being near in the lives of ordinary folk.

In August last year I was flying to Tasmania to work with their Synod. At 30,000 feet my brain started to do some free wheeling. For a number of years, Uniting College has been offering a Masters in Ministry. It is an exceptionally well-designed course, offering collegiality, flexibility and a practical theology focus.

At the same time, I have, for the past five years, taught a one-year course on Missional Leadership. Generally by the end, students feel like they are just starting. I don’t think this is because I am a poor teacher. Rather, I think it is a reflection on the long haul nature of being missional in leadership. The course needed more time, more years – not so much in lecturing from the expert, but more in accountable, collegial relationships.

At 30,000 feet I began to wonder what it would look like to apply this existing degree to the challenge of developing missional leaders in context.

  • To shape the existing thesis into an action/research journal documenting missional innovation
  • To shape the existing entry level papers on research design into a focus on action research
  • To shape the existing theological reflection paper into a leadership evaluation process
  • To shape the existing colloquim into a cohort specifically focusing on supporting each other in missional change
  • To shape the existing Guided readings into a shared experience of reading mission texts together.

The last five months have involved moving this through academic processes, writing some thought pieces on the methodology (here and here and here and here), recruiting participants, seeking inputers.

Yesterday the work became a reality. I had hoped for 5 to 8 (adventurous) participants in first year, and then to add 4 to 5 each year after, which over a part-time 4 year degree, builds nicely toward a cohort of around 15 to 20.

Well, we began yesterday with 4 folk and expect another 3 more joining mid year, so looking on track.  (This should include 1 in NZ, 2 in Queensland, 2 in rural South Australia, so certainly the distance thing seeming to be helpful.)

At the same time, numbers in our existing Masters/Doctor of Ministry have increased, an overall doubling of our enrolments, with over 30 folk involved in study. (That still leaves the PhD programme, of which we at Uniting College are involved in supervision of more than 10 candidates). The existing part of the programme began last week, and also started exceptionally well, a group of students reflecting on images of God in relation to disability and depression. Grounded, thoughtful and honest.

Hence the little, slightly self-indulgent, pause. Yesterday was a moment to celebrate.

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM

Thursday, February 03, 2011

the craft of ministry takes practical shape

Ministry is a craft:

  • as technique. Not mindless procedure, but the cultures in which we might flourish
  • as a unique and individual blend of skill, commitment and judgment
  • as the aligning of head and heart, intuition and intelligence, history and innovation

I’ve blogged about this themes last year, interacting with Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman. And I then made some links to ministry training, ways to help leaders and their churches in their craft of thinking and acting in mission

Over the next few days, ways to grow in this craft begin to take practical shape here at Uniting College. Tonight (Feb 3, 5:!5-6:15 pm) there is an information evening that gives an overview of the Master of ministry. A chance for folk to kick tires.

Over the next weeks I am booked to sit with 13 individuals, existing “crafters” (students). I will be trying to find ways to turn what they see as their growing edges – their questions about their craft – into learning opportunities. Our Master of Ministry has such flexibility in this regard. We are not offering blocks of information taught by overseas experts, but able to flexibly craft unique assignments.

On Monday the Research intensive begins. We are partnering with other local post-graduate providers, which we hope will provide a richer experience. Research methods is a demanding course. But so essential for “crafters” to explore their tools of the research trade.

It looks like we will double our post-graduate numbers in our post-graduate ministry programme this year. This includes a jump in our Doctor of Ministry programme and interest (from around Australia and even New Zealand) in the new missional cohort we want to explore the craft of missional leadership.

God the crafter
enliven the craft of all who wish to craft with you,

Posted by steve at 11:22 AM

Saturday, December 11, 2010

the art and craft of missional leadership: masters year one

Further to my post on the art and craft of missional leadership, in which I suggest that leadership is a craft. By craft I mean that leadership is not a bunch of techniques. Rather it is a craft in that it is concerned about the cultures in which we flourish. Nor is it a program. Rather it is a craft in that it is a unique and individual blend of skill, commitment and judgment. Nor is it head knowledge. Rather it is a craft in the aligning of head and heart, intuition and intelligence, history and innovation.

So the application becomes: How do you develop leaders in their craft?

Which is what I’ve been working on through recent months – first a Masters in Missional Leadership.

And then more specifically, the shape of Year One

It’s for current ministers who want to grow in their leadership. Mention Masters ie post-graduate education and people tend to think of an individual pursuit in a library which involves lots of footnotes and even more words. Which seems opposite to this notion of the “craft of leadership”. Glancing back over the one page information blurb about Year One, using the lens of “craft” I note

1. It’s part-time, because leaders get better at their craft by practising their craft
2. The major thesis project expects participants to focus their craft in their own culture. It’s not a theoretical thesis, but a documenting over 4 years of an ongoing process of action/reflection (practising your craft). (This then raises a whole lot of theoretical and ethical questions, answered by the field of action research.
3. Program Seminars provides ways to embrace the strength and critique that comes from a community of crafters.
4. Leadership 360 creates a space space for people to gain a snapshot, shine on mirror on the practise of their craft and how they might improve.
5. Reading is assessed on integration, the implications for one’s own context.

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Friday, December 10, 2010

the art and craft of missional leadership

I sat with a group of church leaders during the week. They were concerned about their local mission. Could a lecturer with the title “missiologist” help them? During the week I continued to read Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.

The book argues that the notion of craftsmanship, the desire to do a job well, for it’s own sake, should be the way we approach not just work, but life. In Chapter One, Sennett explores the arrival of Computer Aided Design. He notes how architects used to draw by hand, yet how with the advent of CAD, it posed new problems for thinking about buildings. A loss became possible, a detachment from the actual local site, a removal from the materials by which buildings are made. Sennett notes

“architectural sketches are often pictures of possibility; the the process of crystallising and refining them by hand, the designer proceeds just as a tennis player or musician does, gets deeply involved in it, matures thinking about it.” (40)

I would replace “tennis player and musician” with writer, worship curator, preacher, leader. There is “a kind of circularity between drawing and making and then back again” (40). Week by week worship is crafted, ideas are pondered, project are imagined, people are engaged, groups are formed.

As I read, I thought back to those church leaders. How much of the missional conversation might actually be CAD? When we look at other churches, when we seek consultants, when we read books, we are in danger of becoming detached from our own local site, our own local context? The reality is that the person who knows the most about the church are likely to be its leaders and the people who know most about their community are likely to be those who attend church and live local.

So the mission challenge becomes the passing on of a craft. It is to help these leaders and this church become better – more focused, more insightful, more reflective, more strategic, more deeply involved in – their thinking and acting in mission. The key to mission are these leaders, not the imported missiology expert or those books. Or to quote Alan Roxburgh, the future of God might really be among the people of God!

I will probably return to these leaders. I want to offer them some tools that could help them become more skilled mission crafters-in-mission. I’m wondering also how all this applies to the launch of the Missional masters next year. And how The Craftsman might actually be an important text for the first reading course. It might provide a way to understand leadership – as craft – that will encourage leaders in their growth and development.

Posted by steve at 08:41 AM

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Shifts: Doing action research in your own organization

One of the very significant shifts in recent decades has been the willingness to embrace experience in knowing. In contrast to “I think therefore I am,” has been the pursuit of “We experience, therefore we grow.”

This has huge implications for being human, for being Christian, for education. This serves to introduce a new book I will be blog reviewing: Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization. It is the type of book that frames and names much about the new missional masters we’re piloting in 2011.

Action research is defined as “an approach to research which aims at both taking action and creating knowledge or theory about that action.” (ix) It is interested not only in individual head knowledge, but in actions and knowledge.

It assumes a spiral approach to life and learning, in which planning leads to action which leads to reflection which leads to planning … and so on. It assumes collaboration, in that what is being studied are themselves active in the study process. It assumes we are all insiders of many systems. This brings us knowledge and the invitation to action.

The desire to be involved in or to lead radical change involves high hassle and high vulnerability, realistic expectations, tolerance, humility, self-giving, self-containment and an ability to learn. Insider action research is an exciting, demanding and invigorating prospect that contributes considerably to researchers’ own learning and contributes to the development of the systems in which we work and live and with which we have affiliations. (xi)

Which surely is what much Christian research and education should be about? (Hence the missional masters, in which leaders use their own context as a place for learning and growth. And this is deemed a place which deserves post-graduate “action-research”.) It should invite us to change, it should expect our churches and our communities to grow and change!

This of course raises a complex range of issues, which the book seeks to explore and about which I will blog in coming weeks.

I would place Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization as a key text alongside Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development which I have been summarising on this blog throughout the year. Put them both together and you have a framework for growing and developing your leadership within your own context and communities, in a way that can advance academic rigour.

Posted by steve at 09:00 AM

Friday, October 29, 2010

mission training into 2011

The last few months have involved lots of talk, networking, dreaming, discussing about ways to make concrete mission and pioneer leading training here at Uniting College. The upshot is that in 2011, and through a number of developing partnerships, we are hoping to provide:

mission training for whole people of God – through an Aussie version of the UK Fresh expression Mission-shaped course. This is based on a partnership with a number of other denominations and in a number of states, as a one year part-time learning journey equipping people for fresh expressions. Starting perhaps mid-2011 or 2012. (For more, see here)

mission training for potential pioneer leaders – through a three year Bachelor of Ministry, and the provision of majors in Missiology and Innovation (Subject to accreditation, will blog more when that is approved)

missional leadership training for existing church leaders – through an existing Master of Ministry, but with a distinct missional leader focus. This one really excites me! We will train by inviting leaders to work on missional change within their own ministry context. Growth will be fostered in a combination of coaching, guided reading and peer cohort support. The final thesis need not be a traditional thesis, but can instead be a journal documenting the process, the learnings, the theological integration over the 4 years of mission change in context. The aim is engaged action-reflection leaders in mission. For those interested here is a (1 meg) brochure master ministry 2011-www. We are wanting a cohort of 5 per year and I’m already getting phone calls, so if you are interested, do get in touch.

Posted by steve at 02:34 PM