Saturday, May 07, 2011

mission project updates

Part of my current role (Director of Missiology) involves teaching. So recent months have found me

  • writing a distance unit for lay folk on Jesus
  • teaching an under-graduate course on Reading cultures
  • teaching across a range of post-graduate courses. This is focused on working with church leaders in a mix of group and one-on-one research projects. Some of these are smaller – looking at how church is understood in recent changes in Catholic dioceses, hospitality Bible passages, how Christian education is being taught, researching their local community. Others are more lengthy, the effectiveness of short-term mission trips, the missional practices of pioneer leaders, the cross-cultural skills of church leaders, how migrants do theology.

Another part of my current role also involves catalysing in areas of mission. Quite a bit of this has been going on below the blog radar, so I thought it time I provided a bit of an update.

1. Mission shaped ministry Australia – In November 2010 a group of 12 leaders from four Australian States met at Uniting College to talk about partnership in mission training.  The upshot was a decision to form a national development team, to work collaboratively on contextualising the mission-shaped ministry course, which is a one year part-time course ( equipping in planting and sustaining fresh expressions of church, currently running ecumenically in over 30 centres across the UK. The core values include hospitality, prayer, ecumenical generosity, interactive learning, coaching and practitioner teachers. Followup includes ongoing coaching and learning networks and it has been hugely important in developing a mission mindset in the UK context.

Since then, via meetings and email, a Memorandum of Understanding has been developed, forming an Australian Centre to allow negotiation and licensing with UK, yet maintain freedom for local initiatives to be run by local groupings. Currently there are seven partners from 4 States and 2 Territories. (Other partners will always be welcome to join in the future.)  It has been humbling to see denominations and states decide to work together for mission.

(Two pilots are being well piloted in 2011 and if the signs are good, then processes are being worked on for other states/cities to offer courses in 2012. If anyone is interested, please contact us)

2. Mission shaped ministry Adelaide 2011 pilot – A planning group from Adelaide, involving folk from the Lutheran, Uniting and Anglican Church has been meeting to explore the first ever pilot of the mission shaped course in Australia. Go Adelaide!

The plan is to run this Wednesday evenings from mid-July to end-November, over 12 weeks, plus a weekend away to build community. The course is for leaders and members, clergy and lay people, learning side by side. It’s a great opportunity for folk in Adelaide who want to focus on either preparing to start a fresh expression of church or because they want their existing church to be more mission-shaped. More details will be rolling in forthcoming weeks.

(There is also a pilot happening in Canberra, three weekends in the second half of 2011).

3. Innovation and pioneer leader research – Uniting College has partnered with the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) to do some specific research on innovation and pioneer leaders across Australia. This has involved commissioning some research, both on how innovative are churches in Australia and also how innovative are leaders in Australia. This will be used as part of the nationwide NCLS. It will also be used by us at Uniting College.

Our Bachelor of Ministry (practice) and our Masters of Mission (missional) are focused on developing innovative leaders and we want a tool to benchmark whether that is actually happening. It will take a while for the data to emerge, but it is energising to at least be thinking about what questions might need to be asked.

Posted by steve at 12:08 AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big news!

Government approval just in for our new Bachelor of Ministry. A lot of behind the scenes work in 2010 went into this! It includes two streams, one a more usual classroom stream, the other a practice stream, which allows people to “have a go” and learn as they go.

The practice stream is specifically designed for pioneers/social entreprenuers ie folk who want to start fresh expressions, enflesh justice projects, empower art collectives. (Here’s the brochure www). It’s not “priest plus” ie do existing Christian training and add a bit of learning in Mission-shaped church, but has a whole underlying pedagogy about how people learn and the place of practical theology in ministry formation. I think we’re unique in Australia on this one and we’re all pretty excited.

I’ll try to blog more over the coming days, but in the meantime do please pass the info onto those who may be interested.

Bachelor of Ministry – Promotional Video from Craig Mitchell on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 01:41 PM

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

Friday, October 01, 2010

pioneer leaders as attending to birth narratives (thanks Rowan Williams)

A few days later, I wrote a post reflecting on the need for pioneer training not as technique and structure, but as a way of deepening spiritual and emotional intelligence. I read the following quote this morning:

“And the sense Christ makes is not in his masterly reorganization of the world, his provision of explanations and programmes, but in his comprehensive loving, forgiving attention to the world that has somehow brought him to birth.” (Rowan Williams in the brilliant Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin).

This fits with my presentation at the Evaluating Fresh Expressions Research Consultation, including the image that I used during the presentation, of fresh expressions emerging from the Orans icon.

Christ is wanting to be made real in the world. As Mary says yes, so to we are invited to say yes, to be part of bringing to birth fresh expressions of the body of Christ.

This is not steady as she Sunday goes leadership. This is why I major on listening and discerning in my leadership courses. In the 21st century, new forms of church are being brought to birth and we are invited to pay attention to what is being brought to birth, to recognise the contours of Christ. This is leadership that seeks to be both spiritually and emotionally intelligent.

Posted by steve at 11:16 AM