Saturday, July 04, 2015

a super semester

It’s been an exceptional first semester for Uniting College. This is a summary from an email I sent to the team this week:

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your contributions over this Semester. On top of the regular demands of teaching, supervision, administration and student support, we’ve pulled off some very significant developments in our life as a College. I’d suggest it’s worth pausing, looking back and recalling what we have achieved over the last six months.

Team wise – We’ve welcomed five new folk – Tanya Wittwer (Postgraduate Coordinator), Danika Patselia (Big Year Out Coordinator), Denise Boyland (Principal’s PA maternity), Nadia Boscaini (Marketing Coordinator), Kerry Pierce (Lecturer Pastoral Care). Each have settled well and made important contributions to our life. We’ve been able to appreciate new personalities and worked in different ways to clarify our values, vision and establish new sets of working relationships as a team. We’ve stood with each other through some significant moments of sadness, stress and grief.

Student wise – We’ve seen our first English as a Second Language cohort begin our Certificate in Bible and Ministry. We’ve seen Big Year Out begin a second year, with an increased cohort, in both number and cultural diversity. In these two programmes are the seeds of a very different student profile – younger and far more multi-cultural. We’ve experienced what many felt was our best ever Walking on Country indigenous immersion experience. We’ve celebrated our most successful ACD graduate, including two Doctors in Ministry and our first ever cohort of Cert IV/Big Year Out Students. We’ve experienced our largest ever cohort of Bachelor Theology honours.

Blended education wise – Now into our third semester, we are looking more and more comfortable across our system with ACD Online and video-conferencing. The resourcing provided by Adam Jessep (Blended Education Design Coordinator) continues to serve us exceptionally well, in teaching and education development. This has included exciting progress on the VET Online project.

Development wise – We’ve successfully launched a Diploma of Ministry hub on the Gold Coast, with 17 students now studying with us through New Life College. This has required inducting new adjuncts, developing new relationships and systems of administration and accountability. We’ve put significant work into our Flinders University Department of Theology Review and in the process, found ways to re-imagine and re-dream what world-class theology programmes might look like. We’ve made significant strides in promotion, including an improved social media presence, the return of a regular email to stakeholders, improved brochures and a sharper, clearer look for ACD.

In short, it’s been an exceptional semester for us as a Uniting College. Thanks for all your work, commitment, creativity, energy and persistence. I’m grateful to you all for what you’ve contributed and I’m excited about what we are becoming.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

Monday, June 06, 2011

ministry study at Uniting College

Our new B.Min at Uniting College really excites me. It got a complete retooling last year. It’s made a focus on integration for ministry. It’s opened up the definition of ministry, to train not just for ministry within the church, but for chaplaincy, youth and pioneering. It has four streams – Bible, leadership, mission, formation and discipleship. This ensures a bringing together of the head and the heart, the world and the church and with huge flexibility to suit individualised learning paths. (Here’s the brochure)

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

Posted by steve at 11:21 AM

Monday, November 01, 2010

mission really matters

One of the big shifts here at Uniting College in the last few years has been in the area of teaching disciplines. In order to respond to the renewed emphasis in missio Dei and to formation as whole-bodied, not merely intellectual, we’ve moved from three areas to four; from

  • Biblical
  • Theology – systematic and historical
  • Pastoral – (ie everything that doesn’t fit in the other two)


  • Biblical
  • Education and Discipleship
  • Leadership
  • Missiology

I’m involved with the missiology stream. Which is new and hence I often get asked what is “missiology”? So in order to help explain missiology, and to promote the change and in the hope of drawing interested people together in the hope of gentle Kingdom revolution of the world that God loves (!), I have created a newsletter. I’m hoping to provide 3 or 4 a year, with the aim of introducing missiology, offering some helpful resources, and communicating comings and goings. Here’s the front page of the first …

Here as downloadable PDF

(Faithful blog readers will recognise some of the resources, but might still appreciate the colour and the clarity. I am unsure whether to keep it tight at 2 pages, or to provide more resources but in doing so go larger. This time around the viscious red editing pencil won the 2 pages vs 4 pages duel!)

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

what do you need to be a pioneeer leader?

Tim Costello, currently CEO of World Vision, Australia, kicked off the Church in the City 2010 conference today. He spoke about his experience at Collins Street Baptist in Melbourne and the formation of Urban Seed. It was a mixture of challenge and inspiration.

During discussion was when Tim really (for me) excelled, a great mix of practical wisdom, reflection and astute cultural observation. He talked a number of times about the place of leaders as both prophet and leader, as taking risks and challenging the status quo. He ended with a fascinating quote (from my notes):

Our leadership issues are not to do with our structures. They are more to do with our spiritual intelligence. And our emotional intelligence.

I couldn’t agree more. Starting things is about seeing both what is and what might be. That takes honesty and vision. And faith, to believe in what is not yet. And the ability to align that with the stories of Jesus. In other words, spiritual intelligence!

And between what is and what is not, is the status quo. And inertia. And people who like the status quo. So to see change means challenging people. And leading through change. And dealing with conflict. That takes emotional intelligence!

So many times I feel when speaking to leaders the desire for easy answers and quick fixes. It’s hard to say, “There aren’t any. It’s just hard work.” The quote by Tim today gives me another frame and an affirmation, that of the need to deepen one’s spiritual and emotional intelligence, to let the slow processes of composting – emotional and spiritual – happen.

It made me glad of the Missional Church Leadership course I run, which seeks to offer spiritual practices, and to focus on Biblical narratives, especially Luke 10:1-12 and Luke 1:39-45. No easy answers, just invitations to listen, to discern i.e. spiritual and emotional intelligence.

Here at Uniting College, we’re working on three further ways (alongside the Missional Church Leadership) to access pioneer training

  • a one year Mission-shaped ministry course, hopefully taught ecumenically, introducing mission, church, leadership
  • the new Bachelor of Ministry which will include an “innovation” focus, allowing have-a-go learning
  • a Masters in Missional Church Leadership, which offers in-service training, with a mix of coaching, peer group support, reading and a praxis/theory thesis in which people work, over 4 years, on missional leadership in their own context

Tim’s input was a great reminder that in the midst of all of these changes, the greatest gift that can be offered is fostering spiritual and emotional intelligence.

All in all, a great start to the Church and the city 2010 conference.

Posted by steve at 08:05 PM

Monday, July 26, 2010

a new semester postgraduate focus

A new semester starts here at Uniting College today. The focus for me this Semester is the post-graduate area and it’s so nice to be building on foundations, rather than heading into unknown and uncharted terrain.

First is the continuation of Program seminars. I’ve blogged about these before, noting with excitement how these build collegiality and are constantly developing people’s ability to reflect theologically on current ministry practice. We’ve got new students and a really rich denominational environment – Salvation Army, Anglican, Lutheran, Churches of Christ, Catholic, Uniting – at play.

Second is the continuation of Missional Church Leadership. Students are at the half-way stage of the course. That means that today we are gathering around presentations of their listening in their unique contexts. As they present, I am working with the class developing their capacities to engage in processes of discernment. This is not theory, but requires stepping into real, living mission contexts and together exploring what God might be up to.

Third, the icing on the cake, is the post-graduate distance course I’m co-teaching for Otago University. It’s a “foreigner”, on my own time as it were. The topic is contemporary preaching and I am looking forward to co-teaching with Lynne Baab. The students have set up their own blogs and with the wonders of modern technology, I in Adelaide, will be engaging with Kiwi students throughout Aotearoa. It’s nice to realise that I might have left New Zealand, but in the grace of God, I can continue to be involved in my home!

Posted by steve at 06:47 AM

Friday, July 23, 2010

Formation panels as a process in leadership formation

If you arrived at Uniting College today, you would have seen a carpark full of cars and a steady stream of students coming and going.  Today is Formation panel day, when teams of 3-5 people gather around each   candidates processes for ordination. Practically the panel is carefully chosen to bring missional leaders, faculty academic advice and skills in adult education. The same panel meet with the same candidates three times over a year, in a process that might take up to five years and involve academic study, fieldwork and readiness to transition into first placements.

Formation panels, and the carpark full of cars, are a recent development for training here in South Australia and have been shaped by a number of theological beliefs that are worth naming.

First, that training for ministry is not intellectual, but deals with formation for discipleship, inviting the whole person into processes of integration. Thus a panel is a way of making intentional this belief and will be exploring with candidates anything from life to balance, relationships to academic study to fieldwork.

Second, that candidates are engaged in ministry with and among the church. Hence the church, and not solely the academy, should be involved in their formation. I love seeing that carpark full of cars, some people driving up to two hours, all people living in and among the demands and pressures of congregational life. This is the church at work, giving time and focus toward leadership formation.

Third, that each candidate has a unique calling. This is not about producing cookie cutter ministers, all following the same template. Rather time in Formation Panel is given to listen, listen, listen, and then seek to shape a unique programme around each student –  mixing study, fieldwork, supervision. Every programme is unique and is revisited in each and every Formation panel, wanting to be flexible to student growth and development.

It’s an exhausting, time-consuming, complex process. It is demanding for the panel and for the candidates. But it makes some important theological points about the formation of leaders for the church of tomorrow.

Posted by steve at 04:32 PM

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh expressions formalised in South Australia: updated

Exciting weekend here in South Australia, with the Uniting Church Synod (council of all Uniting churches in South Australia), voting to accept a number of resolutions including the following:

  • develop Fresh Expressions and Church Plants throughout South Australia
  • develop a network/community of Pioneer Ministers
  • ask the Uniting College (of which I am a part) to take the lead in developing training for Pioneer Ministry, both for lay people and for those wanting to live out their ordination as Pioneer Ministers

(Updated: full resolutions here)

So there we are – a church denomination making Fresh expressions a priority, and formally charging it’s training arm to train pioneer leaders.

It dovetails beautifully with the fact that as a Uniting College staff, we’ve been putting in hours of work in the last few months into developing a unique pathway by which to train pioneer leaders. This will be as part of our new B.Min degree programme. If our application is successful it will mean we are offering two training paths. One path will be a more conventional mission and ministry degree.

The other path will also offer a B.Min degree, but with a focus on innovation and pioneering. It will offer learning by doing, in situ in a fresh expression, observational intensives so people can broaden their vision and practice of ministry, expect mentoring – both individual and in community – along with integration through study in areas of leadership, mission, Bible and Christian discipleship.  So if you sense God calling you to train as a fresh expressions pioneer leader, we at Uniting College just may be able to help you.

All quite exciting.

Posted by steve at 08:36 PM

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

masters of ministry and the revolution that is practical, not applied, theology

Yesterday included the beginning of the 2010 teaching program here in Adelaide with regard to the Master of Ministry (of which I am the Co-ordinator). It’s a quite unique post-graduate program that I am beginning to really admire.

Most post-grad qualifications are shaped around a variety of taught papers plus a larger body of work in the form of a thesis. The Master of Ministry here offers a number of innovations.

First, it is totally ministry focused, given that it can only be taken part-time, and after 4 years in ministry, making it only available to people who are actually in ministry. This brings a wonderful groundedness into discussion and interaction and into research.

Second, is the Program Seminar. Every student has to complete 21 Program Seminars over the duration of their study. Each seminar involves a student sharing some of their work and in response each participant must write a 1,000 word reflection piece. Thus it builds a collegiality, is constantly developing ability to reflect theologically on current ministry practice and potentially provides a rich source of written material on ministry today.

Third, is a paper titled Theology of Ministry Practice. This must be done early in the student’s study and simply expects them to write a 6,000 word thought piece describing their theology of ministry. This is such a valuable exercise, emerging not in theory, but out of their life experience that they bring to the table.

In recent years what was applied theology has sought to rename itself as practical theology. The change of name is about a revolution. Rather than a two-stage process, that of getting one’s intellectual ducks in a row (Biblical studies and theology) and then making application to ministry (applied), practical theology argues for a three stage process. First, to listen to lived experience that is the practice of ministry. Second, to reflect on that in light of Biblical studies and theology. Third, to bring that learning back to the practice of ministry (applied).

This is a revolution because it tips traditional study on it’s head. Rather than move from theory to practice, it suggests a move from practice to theory and back to practice again. That requires a new set of skills, practises and disciplines. It seems to me that the innovations implemented in the Masters of Ministry programme are a significant step in this direction and one I’m excited to be part of.

Posted by steve at 08:51 AM