Wednesday, November 10, 2010

mission shaped church australia?

A sign, small and white, stuck on a door. An invitation to enter, to begin a conversation. The future, uncertain, the companions inside, unknown …

And so yesterday I at Uniting College hosted 11 folk, from 4 States and 1 territory, representing 4 denominations. The invitation, as the sign indicated, was to a conversation about mission-shaped church training in Australia.

The conversation was wide ranging and frank. The outcomes were for the next 12 months. To seek permission from UK to a pilot, in two places, from mid-2011 of an Australianised version of the UK Missionshaped course. One in Canberra using a more intense format over a number of weekends. Another in Adelaide weekday evenings during Semester 2.

An initial (cash) intention to partnership from five groups, with three other likely partners and an open invitation for any and all to join at any time later. A (time and skills) commitment from different folk to be part of a national team of trainers by workshopping segments, both individually and in partnership, with the intent of developing an ecumenical team of learners-together-in-teaching.

And the hope that, based on learnings from the two pilots, based on feedback from the UK, that we might look to run more courses into 2012, not only in Adelaide and Canberra, but perhaps in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.

We finished thanking God for those who have pioneered before us, both here in Australia and in the UK, on who’se work we are building.

And with excitement, of being part of a broadly ecumenical partnership wanting to follow the Spirit in providing concrete mission-shaped training.

And of affirmation, that the sign on the door remains, to anyone, to enter, to join the conversation – one that us uncertain, unknown, but it does now have some companions on the journey.

I’ll keep blogging more details as they shape up; for an earlier post/invitation, see here.

Posted by steve at 03:38 PM

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

Friday, August 06, 2010

your place or mine? hospitality as mission

I’ve been asked to offer some input to a gathering of church leaders in Tasmania in a few weeks (August 20-22). The title they’ve given me is this: Your place or mine: hospitality as mission. I said yes because I think it names a fascinating tension and one that has been nagging at me in recent days.

Back in April I was pondering mission in relation to the Zaccheus story in Luke 19. I was struck by how Jesus does mission at Zaccheus place, at his table, inside his home. Which, when I thought about it, was the dominant way the Gospel stories portray Jesus. He doesn’t give hospitality. He receives hospitality.

The exception is the Waiting Father/Prodigal Son in Luke 15, which has often used to frame mission and encourage the church to open it’s arms in embrace. Yet note the context in which the story is told – Jesus accepting hospitality, not giving it. Fascinating stuff.

I took this insight to my bookshelf and went through all my books on hospitality. Wonderful books on the banquet of God and the embrace of God at the Eucharist. But sure enough, almost all are about hospitality at our place. We are the host and they focus on how we give hospitality.

Which can so easily become occupied with mission as people coming to us, our turf, our churches, our terms, our worship, our welcome, our websites.

Which leaves a wonderful tension: How to integrate hospitality with the pattern of Jesus? What does hospitality in Western culture mean at their place, not mine! Any insights welcome as I begin my preparation.

Posted by steve at 09:31 AM

Thursday, August 05, 2010

one night while surfing: missio Dei on wikipedia

“Missio Dei as a term and concept became increasingly popular in the church from the second half of the 20th century and is a key concept in missiology being used by theologians such as David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, Alan Roxburgh, David Dunbar, Steve Taylor ….

From the wikipedia entry: (Missio Dei).

That’s some pretty humbling company to be among …. (but they are all male …)

Posted by steve at 08:03 PM

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 7 Developmental approaches

I’m speaking to a group of church leaders on Thursday on the topic of mission as innovation, and again in a few weeks to another group on change, so it’s back to a book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. (For the review to date: Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here. Chapter four is here. Chapter five is here. Chapter six is here)

First, great (amazing really) to see an opening quote (from Dance of Leadership, The: The Call for Soul in 21st Century Leadership, by Kiwi author, Peter Cammock.

Leadership is a dance, in which leaders and followers jointly respond to the rhythm and call of a particular social context, within which leaders draw from deep wells of collective experience and energy, to engage followers around transforming visions of change and lead them in the collective creation of compelling futures.

This suggests a focus away from leader-centric models of leadership, to the relational aspects of collective change leadership. Collins is cited, that great leaders have two essential dimensions – humilty and persistence.

Then comes a fascinating section (165-173) naming ways leaders can develop. Things like move to a foreign culture, shadow an arbitrator, become a volunteer.

This is followed by a number of case studies of leadership development within organisations. Let me take one, that of developing emerging leaders in the New Zealand public sector. This involved a development centre and a leadership program. The focus was based around a set of leadership competencies. The focus was an experiential learning through peer challenge, self-revelation and team learning in a safe environment.

Each person developed a portfolio, to document their learning over 9 months through the following stages.

  • Stage 1 involved identifying prior leadership experience
  • Stage 2 involved some input (a 1 week course) combined with personal goal setting around “lever” activity (self-awareness, learning as a leader, values and beliefs, interpersonal intelligence, communication skills, behaviour modeling)
  • Stage 3 involved leading a strategic change project

I can’t help putting all this alongside the leadership training I experienced, which was mainly lectures on the importance of vision and how it worked in a large church.

I begin to reflect that some of the “lever” activities are to some extent embedded in some dimensions of ministerial training, but need to be made more explicit and clear. I see the challenge of the modernist mindset that equates teaching with content rather than learning.  I see echoes between what we hope to do with our new Innovation stream in the new Bachelor of Ministry, especially Stage 1, the Introduction to Formation topic and Stage 3, the invitation into a practical project over the course of the training. I wonder what it would look like for a denomination to do this with their existing ministers and to think about the Missional Church Leadership course I offer, and did offer to ministers in New Zealand. What was the fruit and what changes could be made?

Posted by steve at 02:46 PM

Monday, August 02, 2010

Joining in with God’s Spirit: a great missional resource

God’s mission is greater than any church, and it is in this wider movement of the Spirit that all the churches in the world participate. It is within the greater purposes of God that we find our unity. The missio Dei is not confined to any locality; it spills over, crosses boundaries and is carried across the world by the wind of the Spirit. It does not have a single origin or one direction but comes and goes as the Spirit wills. However, it is one movement because the Spirit witnesses to a unique person, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified and raised, who reveals the Father in heaven, source of all things. We have yet to realize that the cosmic Christ is manifested in the unity of local churches in the mission of the Spirit. When we do, we will connect world church with local mission. We will be able to join with the Spirit who moves over the earth sustaining our world and our life – the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is given to bring about good news in the whole creation.

Conclusion from Kirsteen Kim’s Joining in with the Spirit. It’s a great book. While I don’t agree with her analysis of Fresh Expressions, this is still a book rich in contemporary missiological insights.

Books like these are essential to the missional church conversation. They offer the Western missional church the gift of dislocation. When you read chapters that start with the insights from contemporary mission in Africa and Korea and India, you are offered a missiology that is so much richer than your own. You are reminded that the missional God is up to so much more than patching up a declining Western church. That mission is so much deeper, richer and wider than bringing back the young people!

So I used Kirsteen Kim’s quote as a devotional beginning at our Masters of Ministry class last Monday. Each of us were invited to sit with the quote and as we did, to identify the phrase that most spoke to us. After sharing, we then prayed for the person on our right. Then together we said the Lord’s Prayer. Just a few minutes, but a great way to place ourselves, each other and our ministries in the caring context of God’s globally local mission.

Posted by steve at 08:55 AM

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missional church, missional liturgy

“For several years, I have offered workshops and classes on “missional liturgy.” A frequent response has been, “How can I make my church’s liturgy missional?” As I listened to these questions and probed more deeply, it has seemed as though people were asking about techniques … I began to realize that it was the wrong question.” (44-45).

There is a helpful article in the latest edition of Theology today, by Ruth A. Meyers on the shape of worship in missional church, which I will be adding it to my list of compulsory readings for the Missional Church Leadership courses I teach.

The article starts with a real life story of a missional community. Always a good sign, because a key theology underpinning missional church is the focus on lived communities and their practices, in contrast to starting first with elaborate theories. The article then places their lived practices alongside existing understandings of worship.

  • Inside and outside – gathered public worship builds up and resources Christians who then go out to serve in mission
  • Outside in – gathered public worship is seen as mission, attracting people who are changed by the worship experience
  • Inside out – worship is mission, not as an instrument to change people as with “outside in”, but as an full expression of God’s mission

The article then argues that all, and yet none, of these three categories describe missional worship.  After a helpful survey of recent shifts in mission – mission is a partnering with a Trinitarian God rather than humans taking initiatives – she then outlines a number of concrete practices, in which mission is worship and worship is mission. The list sounds traditional, yet has an intentional reframing.

  • Reconciling community – the more diverse the worshipping community, the more worship is missional, showing forth God’s reconciling love
  • Hospitality – welcoming those not yet active members with a focus on who is not here from our neighbourhood? Hence, what might need to change in us?
  • Symbol – using language of the people
  • Proclamation – seeing all the acts of gathered public worship as educational
  • Intercession – praying beyond our narrow parochial concerns, which in turns open those who pray to transformation
  • Offering – worship engaging the whole of life and all the people
  • Thanksgiving – simple gratitude
Posted by steve at 04:03 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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FOSMT (free and open source missiology textbooks)

Helpful post here by AKMA on steps to an open source theology. He is discussing the Old Testament, but so very easy to apply to missiology. In sum

  • First, work out an overall structure and uniform presentation.
  • Second, find authors to write initial chapters to flesh out the structure
  • Third, edit chapters for uniformity and place on web.
  • Four, arrange a PoD publisher to sell papercopy
  • Five, encourage uploading of alternate points of view.

The result:

Bing, bang, bong, you have an open-source, free as in beer, free-to-reconfigure, free-to-supplement or even -alter (provided you give credit and don’t offer the altered version commercially without the author’s agreement) textbook. And that textbook is now useable anywhere English is read, for free. And that textbook is putting your name(s) in front of students and teachers all over the world, especially in places where they can’t necessarily afford the doorstop hardbacks that the textbook publishers love to charge so much for. And that textbook can easily be kept up-to-date. And if some agency were to fund it (and such funding needn’t even come to very much, in the world of granting — small to moderate honoraria for authors, editorial/production support, and so on), they could slap their name (or a prominent donor’s name) right there on the cover and on every title page

So I am wanting to develop for next year
a) mission-shaped course for Australasia
b) Mission then and now history and theology paper.

I wonder what these would look like FOSMT. Anyone want to partner in either step one, work out an overall structure and uniform presentation; or on step two, author a chapter; or on step three, being an editor, or on step zero – being the initial funder in order to position/brand your organisation as an innovative, missionary-focused, partnering type?

Posted by steve at 01:08 PM

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

when home is a pain: church being in exile?

“I yearn for home” is a line by Pádraig Ó Tuama from the Ikon Dubh album. Hearing it today is a reminder of pain, of the profound disorientation that’s taken place in my understanding of home, caused by the move from New Zealand to Australia. Home used to be a place of comfort, of acceptance, of belonging, found among my previous Opawa church community with creative, intelligent, relational companions, found seated at our South Island holiday home, with those broad vistas to lake and mountains.

But by coming to Australia, the Taylor family has been forced away from home. We believe it’s the call of God, asking us to leave home.  So now the concept of home is simply a pain, a reminder both of isolation and distance, and of obedience. And part of me fights against ever wanting to call this Australian land home!

I think, intuitively this is actually really helpful. You see, isn’t there a danger of home being domesticated around what is familiar and comfortable. I was struck by this when reading Luke 19:1-10 recently, and realising that Jesus does mission not in his home, but in the home of Zacchues. Incarnational mission in this text was not about being comfortable, but about being in someone else’s home, seated at another’s table. It’s meant to be uncomfortable and alien.

Pádraig Ó Tuama has another song, Maranatha, in which he sings “I found my home in Babylon.” (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:26 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 6 The evolution of a change leader

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here. Chapter four is here. Chapter five is here.

Becoming an effective change leader takes time and requires change in the leader themselves. It begins with reflective practise. While authoritarian command type leaders are most appealing in a crisis (page 121), the most appropriate skills are those of questioning and reflection.

Research on change leaders show they hardly ever grow by formal development. Rather, they grow through things like watching leaders, affirmation of their own ability in the midst of conflict, first-hand experiences of the mis/use of power, leadership opportunities and facilitated reflection on their lived experience. This comes best through coaching. This should also include coaching others, due to the giving of compassion becoming a personal healing agency.

The book then summarises 10 dynamic capabilities for change leaders as follows:

1 – Develop decision making – specifically the ability to wait and see, keep an open mind and be comfortable with contradictions. Central to this is the ability to inquire, to accept that you are not the expert and that someone in your team may have a better insight.

2 – Access capability from across the team

3 – Become a co-creator of a learning culture

4 – Combine future-sensemaking with strategic thinking – digging deeper, reading widely, in a desire to appreciate the system and not just the events.

5 – Develop ‘total’ leadership – including authenticity, integrity and experimentation, at all levels of a person’s life

6 – Develop competency to work in diverse cultures

7 – Develop 1-1 coaching skills – eg micro-skills of building rapport, active listening, attention, sensitivity.

8 – Develop 1-many skills – eg micro-skills of dialogue, facilitation, process consulting, because leadership is about responding to real lived relationships.

9 – Emotional intelligence including self-awareness, emotional resilience, sensitivity, influence, intuition and conscientiousness.

10- Dialogue on performance.

The next 2 chapters set out to explore how to develop these capabilities. In the meantime, take some time to reflect on a change leader you admire. In what ways were these capacities in evidence?

Posted by steve at 06:14 PM

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 5 Building a Change Leadership Culture

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here. Chapter four is here.

“we need to depersonalise and decentre the leadership concept, so that we begin to perceive leadership as a co-operative or collective enterprise.” (93-93, quoting Bate, 1994, 242).

This is a crucial chapter, providing a framework by which to develop change leaders. This chapter explores the shift from “I” to “we”; from individual change managers to “leadership culture.” It calls for a “walk the talk” in which leaders make clear the links between what they do and their underlying values. “Whilst heroes can carry the day in times of crisis, building a sustainable culture of innovation, excellence and achievement requires a collective and distributed, as opposed to individualised and hierarchical, leadership mind-set and approach.” (103)

Research into “leadership culture” is rare, with a lack of clarity about how values of individual leaders translate into action. How to influence a culture? There are many options, including directing attention to priorities, reacting to crisis, creating formal statements, telling stories, symbolic acts, design of work facilities and processes, rewards and sanctions, methods of decision-making. But which to use and when? They suggest a mix of the following (112):

  • role model the future, every day and in every way
  • foster understanding of changed expectations and their purposes
  • find and develop the ‘new way’ values, capabilities and behaviours
  • reinforce future state with formal and informal culture signals

This includes some practical steps

  • appreciate that change is complex. It must be embedded in behaviours and run across the organisation, not top-down
  • make modelling a priority
  • build in feedback loops (this is critical including “experimental, case study and real life observation of leadership” (114)
  • build team by creating an open table in which to discuss the real values of the organisation
  • creating a culture development plan
  • identifying key behaviours that have the best chance of making a difference
  • seeking out and developing change leaders and followers who represent your future

The more I read this book, the more impressed I am. The mix of research, concise summaries, diagrams and practical examples is appealing. The use of a strong values basis makes it much more likely to transfer to religious contexts. I suspect it will provide a fascinating way to discuss leadership development ie training of Christian ministers.

Posted by steve at 11:55 AM

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

resourcing missional church

I concluded my missional church leadership class yesterday with the following ….

MISSIONAL COMMUNITY…SIMPLE from jeff maguire on Vimeo.

It’s from the website saying it simply, (hat tip Bosco Peters), who have the goal of tackling “new topics, concepts, or ideas that need to be explained simply.”

The class chewed their pens for a minute or two. And then came the money question: How did Jesus resource the 70/72 to be missional community? Great integration, the student taking the video clip to theology, in particular the missional theology embedded in Luke 10:1-12, Jesus sending disciples out in missional community. (Sermon on Luke 10:1-12 here if you want some more framing).

It is simply too good a question to answer immediately. Sure I’ve got some ideas, and some practical examples from 6 years at Opawa. But some questions need to sit. So instead I suggested it become our homework question. 200 word responses over the next 10 days please and I’ll collate them for next time we meet.

Want to be part of the fun? Got some cyber ideas for my class? 200 word maximum in the comments please: How did Jesus resource the 70/72 to be missional community

Posted by steve at 08:19 PM

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 4 A Values Dialogue for Change Leaders

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here.

The chapter starts by marshalling a wide range of evidence for the importance of values in change leadership. “The management focus for the first part of the twenty-first century will be the management of meaning through the demonstration of values in management behaviour.” (62) The authors urge that selection of change agents include values, as well as experience and competencies.

They suggest a diversity of values are at work and offer some categories (77-81) by which a leader can assess their organisation and how their individual values might mesh with that of their organisation. (Anyone like to locate their church, and their leadership training, in relation to the grid?)

  • Clan. Family type organisation, (often seen in Japanese companies). Key word is collaboration. Values commitment, communication, development. Leader type = facilitator, mentor, team builder.
  • Hierarchy. Key word is control. Values coordinator, monitor, organizer. Leader type = efficiency, timeliness, consistency.
  • Market. Key word is compete. Values hard-driver, competitor, producer. Leader type = market-share, goal achievement, profitability.
  • Adhocracy. Key word is create. Values innovation, transformation, agility. Leader type = entreprenuer, innovator, visionary.

And the implications for change leaders? “leaders have to learn to communicate purpose and direction with a whole culture made up of different personal values, concentrating on shaping informal organizational life (emphasis mine). We might call this ‘strategy by the coffee machine’, consisting of dialogue about what we are told we should be doing, what are leaders are actually doing and how we feel about joining them to make change happen.” (82) “Effective change leaders must continually check what their heart, head and hands communicate.” (83)

Posted by steve at 05:18 PM