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


  1. I like this insight….as we are so wedded to the arrival of the man (and it is often a man) who will ride over the hills on his white charger to save us all…

    And I see people like you as coaches, visionaries who say, as my guitar teacher says ‘have you tried it this way?’ He then encourages me to go back to my local situation to practice, to live with the piece and then experiment further…

    Thank you

    Comment by Graham — December 10, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  2. thanks Graham. glad it has such resonance across on your (cold) side of the world. I like your guitar analogy too.

    it also fits I think with ministry in general, as a sort of learned apprenticeship – with Jesus, from other travellers, rather than some information to study. (this assumes head and heart are integrated in practice)

    i certainly think I have a role with this group (and others), but it’s really helpful for me to think through the theology of how that role can be done


    Comment by steve — December 10, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  3. Hi Steve. I have long felt that it is the locals who know their community. We must be careful to listen to the wisdom of those who have ‘laboured in the vineyard’, but also look at what a tourist might see. Both are needed. Your blog got me thinking!

    Comment by Chris McLeod — December 10, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  4. Thanks Chris.

    We head back to New Zealand on Monday, but we really must catch up when we return, seeing as we’re almost locals now in your local “patch”!


    Comment by steve — December 10, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  5. Hi Steve. Yes, now that you are a local. I’ve been a bit busy with the thesis when not doing other things, like work. I’ve been a bit underground this year. Give you a call in the New Year.

    Comment by Chris McLeod — December 11, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

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