Wednesday, September 23, 2009

pioneers and pastors – part 3 – an alternative lens

This is part 3 of a series of posts about how the relationship between pioneer and pastor might actually be held in creative tension rather than poles part. In an initial post, I focused on individual leadership practices, in a second post I expressed concern about the use of pioneer and pastor on our understanding of congregation. In this post I offer a lens which I have found useful.

Roxburgh and Romanuk (Christendom thinking to missional imagination, unpublished work, p26) use a three zone model to model life-cycle of a local church:

The Three Zone Model … visualizes the organizational cultures congregations and denominations form at various periods in their lives. It represents a dynamic of continuous change in organizational culture relative to the external environment. Church systems living in the discontinuous change now characterize Western societies will be continually shifting through these zones

This can be applied to a human life: babies and teenagers grow like crazy; but tend to get a haircut and real job and settle into more settled life patterns; which is followed by retirement. This can be applied to organisations – they grow in an adhoc, experimental, tentative way; they need to settle into more structured patterns; and will eventually face their need to die well. At each stage an organisation can resist the lifecyle, and choose to enter into destructive patterns.

Note that:
• life cycle process are normal. We should expect cycles of life, death and resurrection.
• change in any particular movement needs to be understood as part of a series of phases and not simply looked at in isolation
• all zones are valid and essential. For example, red zone leadership is a needed, required, natural part of the rhythm of organisational life.
• the diagram can help to identify what type of leadership is required in an organisation and to move to the next stage of the life cycle
• classical “seminary” training is often shaped by the blue zone or the red zone. Most church systems breed managers and encourage chaplains.
• different congregations and groupings in a organisation can be at different stages. At one time you can have parts that are being planted, flourishing or dying.

So this provides another way of thinking about pioneers. They thrive in the green zone. Leave them too long and they keep creating chaos. Partner them with “blue zone” people, and more settled and sustainable, managed patterns are likely to emerge. I suspect that this tension is what underlay Mark’s original post.

What then to do with pioneers as the organisation goes more blue zone? Send them off? That is one way, although it is hard on the pioneer and the organisation. Another way is to encourage the pioneer to develop another green zone within the organisation. However this might have practical issues, in regard to resources. It also requires re-definition, both by the leader and their community. Managing expectations is such a key part of leadership and these type of shifts are complex.

But it does NOT (IMHO) provide a way of thinking about pastors. We need to be pastoral in green and blue and red zones. In saying this, I am defining pastoral not as a title, but as a way of being – of walking alongside.

Part 1 leadership practices here;
Part 2 community here.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM


  1. Thanks for this post – I’ve been learning about leadership in a more roman catholic context and really useful to read your reflexions here. Thanks

    Comment by jane — September 25, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  2. Thanks Steve, this is a good model to help me think through the role I have played in recent years here. In a community in the red zone, it is tempting for the pastoral side of you to try to cover up the crisis and try to make everything all right without addressing the underlying causes. There is a place for the leader to assist the congregation with the small changes that may reduce tension for a while, but the voice for change that will move the group back into the blue needs to come from within. (Good news, we’re moving back to the blue and I’m loving the creativity and optimism that arises in this transition.

    On a side note, this Sunday being Christ the King, I was looking at Bruce Prewer’s page. He refers back to the two styles of leadership seen at Pilate’s judgement seat using the right hand and left hand leadership models that go back to Luther. Pilate has right handed leadership, using power and resources to solve problems (and let’s admit it, Jesus was a problem). Jesus has left handed leadership, the one that uses influence and invitation to make partners in a common work. I agree with Bruce when he says that we ignore either aspect of leadership at our peril. We just need to be flexible and perceptive enough to know what balance is needed where and when.

    Comment by David — November 20, 2012 @ 9:19 am

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