I’m back with my occasional roundup of online articles, news, resources, ideas and events about forming and educting lifelong disciples in mission.
Just a heads-up to say that I’m reviving my Growing Disciples Scoopit page shortly. This is a 4-6 weekly page of ideas, resources, articles and media from around the WWW related to formation, education, discipleship and mission. I’ll continue to post blogs here about my own stuff.
How do we learn about learning? What makes us a better teaching church or better discipling leaders? Is growing disciples at the heart of being the church?
How do you represent the dynamics of growing disciples? I’m working on tools based on my PhD research to use in workshops. I find models to be of limited value, because they take something that worked and suggest that you can replicate it in any context. They offer a mental schema. They are also based on assumptions that parts of the world are fixed. However the process of understanding how things developed is much more interesting, because it tells you about initiative, creativity, contextualisation, experimentation, failure, collaboration and more. I’m OK with frameworks or approaches because they suggest ways to look at a something and ways to work on developing things. In my case, the research is an invitation to ask how certain aspects of congregational life might be related and to work out your own way forward as a church. It is an invitation to engage in reflective practice – to learn from the stories of ourselves and others.
This is a work-in-progress resource for discussion based on my research. It’s not a model, rather a prompt for reflection – a simple overview diagram which names the four areas of discussion in my research.
A key theme in growing missional disciples is intentionality – purposefully (re)forming how we grow people in faith and discipleship in different contexts and times.
The four circles are about learning and are inter-related. Theses are themes of enquiry from my research.
Learning Community – fostering the relational climate that supports learning
Learning Practices – fostering the habits or practices of discipleship
Learning Leaders – leading a learning community and learning as leaders
Learning Mission – learning for, in and from mission as a congregation and as leaders
My research identifies some aspects of each of these and explores how they might be inter-related, and also how these embody the mission of Christ. The characteristics aren’t universal. Each was observed across some or many of my small sample of 13 churches. Hence it’s not a model. The research is an invitation to reflect on your own learnings and maybe to ask some different questions about the energy and focus of congregational life. Let’s talk intentionality with regard to growing disciples.
More to come.
- Growing disciples requires intentional formation and education in Christian faith.
- Christian formation and education require intentional Christian faith practices and community-building.
- Christian practices and community-building require intentional leadership.
- Leadership needs to be intentionally adaptive in order to connect past traditions with present contexts.
- Adaptive leadership intentionally involves people in (re)forming Christian learning in the present and for the future.
For leaders, intentionality means being proactive and purposeful in these areas:
- Leading a learning community
- Fostering growth in Christian practices
- Exercising the ministry of teaching
- Choosing and/or designing curricula (resources for teaching and learning)
- Fostering a positive relational climate for learning
- Improvisation and innovation in learning
- Connecting learning with mission
What might this look like in terms of congregational leadership?
Here are some possible indicators:
- A high and regular priority on the Church Council agenda
- Designated leaders for formation and education
- High level of participation by the minister/s and church staff
- Equipping and encouraging leaders
- Forward planning in terms of programming
- An adequate budget and resources
- Positive language and expectations about growth in this area
- Regular communication with the congregation about this area
- Constant conversation among key leaders about this
- Formal and informal evaluation processes
- Celebrating growth in individuals, groups and the congregation as a whole
- Active experimentation about how to do things more effectively
- Active promotion and recruitment to increase participation
What do you think?
I’m revisiting some of my thesis writing around improvisation and innovation. There’s a great article by Deborah J. Kapp called “Improvisation and the Practice of Ministry”. It’s from the Journal of Religious Leadership 9, no. 1 (2010): p35-57 and available here. I recommend reading the article.
I’ve lifted a bunch of quotes from it (tweaked a couple to make them standalone sentences) and going to make a set of cards of posters. I look forward to using them in discussions with church leaders.
The unpredictability of ministry makes it partly improvisational.
The capacity to improvise is an essential component of effective leadership.
Improvisation is inherently emergent and collaborative.
The process of improvisation is more important than the product.
One has to risk sounding or looking stupid in order to improvise and discover something new.
One’s willingness to risk fosters improvisation and creativity.
To nurture improvisation, groups and organisations must foster the aesthetics of imperfection.
Improvisation is a collaborative process of social construction.
Improvisation in organisations is often instrumental rather than aesthetic in purpose.
Improvisation occurs in the intersection of structure and uncertainty.
Improvisation in organisations is built on strong institutional memory and repretoires of action which operate in the context of organisational instability.
Collaborative improvisation requires a base of shared experience and a mutual understanding of the rules.
Ministers and other religious leaders do not necessarily have wide zones in which to manouevre when they improvise.
Organizations that support improvisation and other forms of innovation are ones that nurture reflective practitioners, tolerate mistakes and welcome creativity, communicate effectively, and support collaborative teams.
Reflective practice is often experimental. The cycle of framing, experimentation, learning, and reframing is a continuous one for reflective practicioners.
Effective improvisation requires the capacity to listen and incorporate the insights and work of others.
Improvisation is less an individual gift than it is a collaborative exercise.
OK, so I just made a card set of these.