Intentionality is one of the key threads running through my doctoral thesis. I’m playing with some nested statements to provide a summary of one of the main threads:
- 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?
Judy Redman says
More or less repeating what I said on Facebook: First, what you say really rings true, affirms my observations and provides a useful structure for working with congregations. It also helps to explain why many congregations are dwindling, because there is no culture of intentional learning. I also recognise that this is a summary of a very large body of work so designed for conciseness.
OTOH, in many of the regional and rural congregations that I’ve had dealings with over the years, talking about ‘education’ is problematic because education=school=something I hated/was bad at=I can’t do that because I am too old/too dumb… and this would be key leaders as well as general congregational members. Or they hear ‘Christian education’ and equate it with bible study groups where you did comprehension questions on the passage you read and were thus a waste of time.
Looking at the people you interviewed, I feel like there might be people who work(ed) with congregations where this kind of baggage was around. What other language can be used to foster a culture of intentionality – that doesn’t buy into the negative self-talk that ‘education’ can cause?
I didn’t impose the language of Christian education in the interviews, rather I asked them what language they used. Most didn’t use it. I’m using it here for summary purposes. I was going to define terms but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Congregations used language of discipleship, growing faith, spiritual growth, faith development, spirituality. Part of retaining the language in my more ‘academic’ writing is to reinforce that this is an actual discipline with a large body of theory and approaches. Less can be said for the church’s current use of “formation”…