Our Presbytery Mission Pilot Project kicked off last weekend with a training intensive weekend led by Phil McCredden, Duncan Macleod and myself with teams from the two participating churches plus others in our presbytery team. We had a stimulating weekend of getting to know one another, exploring changes in church and society, and reflecting on discernment in mission.
So what is the Mission Pilot? It is a twelve month partnership where the presbytery helps congregations to do two things:
This is about learning mission by doing it.
– seeing their local community with fresh eyes
– building new or deeper relationships with people
– seeking the hospitality of strangers
– discerning where the Spirit is at work and seeking to join in
– partnering or collaborating in creating a missional initiative
2. Help their congregation develop a Mission Posture
– sharing learnings from the mission experiment with the congregation
– seek to reshape the culture of the congregation and its leaders towards mission
* Exploring Acts 2 and Luke 10 as early church narratives about Christian community and being sent in mission. We discussed the early church as being both a spiritual and a social transformation.
* Looking at changes in church attendance and participation in recent decades and reflecting on the challenges and opportunities for the church in a post-Christendom era.
* Phil introduced the Three Zone model by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk as described in The Missional Leader. I’ve since discovered videos of Mark Lau Branson describing the zones in a series of short videos starting here.
* Reflecting on the breadth of mission and gospel and the multiple dimensions of these.
* Examining change processes and how to lead change.
* Exploring the nature of discernment and how we being to look and listen both to our communities and the Holy Spirit.
I showed a video excerpt of my interview with Charles Gallacher and Kerrie Lingham about their congregations at Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale and we discussed these through the lenses of Community, Leadership and Mission.
We used some organic imagery through the weekend. Phil talked about how his approach to gardening had changed by paying attention to the health of the soil. On Saturday evening we showed the UK film “Grow Your Own” about an English community who didn’t want to include migrants and refugees. This wonderful film shows a community resisting change and at the same time there are many small moments of kindness, protest and resilience displayed (as well as lack of intercultural awareness!) I used the stories “A List” and “The Garden” from Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series and we gave out seeds in our closing reflection.
I drew on the work of Mennonite biblical scholar Dr Rita Finger in “Of Widows and Meals” to talk about the social nature of the early house churches. This part came from a section of my doctoral thesis where I talked about the church’s social impact being a result of both its boundary-crossing intimacy and transparency.
As part of Sunday morning worship I asked the two congregations to make maps of their mission neighbourhoods. This was both fun and insightful, not only in terms of how they saw their local communities but also how they engaged in the task. Later we placed tea candles on the maps and prayed for their communities.
Among other things, Phil introduced people to Everett Rogers’ Diffusions of Innovation and we talked in congregational teams about how this might help us think about the dynamics of change in congregational life. Duncan introduced people to Morris and Olsen’s Discerning God’s Will Together.
Sounds like a solid weekend? It was!
The process from here in involves:
1. Mission Team Coaching
Another team member (Jay or Dev) and myself meet with each congregation’s Mission Team on a regular basis to coach them through both their Mission Experiment and their work in helping their congregation change its Mission Posture. This will involve several kinds of learning as well as theological reflection on their experience. I aim to base this on Tom Groome’s Shared Christian Praxis.
2. Peer Learning
I meet with the two ministers Neil and Greg and the three of us reflect together on what we are learning.
3. Coaching the Coaches
Jay, Dev and I meet regularly with Phil McCredden to reflect on what we are doing as coaches.
4. Steering Group
Our project steering group meets regularly to reflect on all of the above.
I’ve designed a research framework to accompany all of this and we’re using both quantitative and qualitative measures before, during and after the pilot process. Belinda from our Steering Group is assisting me. There’s still some tweaking of that going on and I’m not going to blog about it at this stage, however I will say that we’re using some NCLS survey tools both with the congregations and their leaders as part of the research.
If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not…
We concluded the weekend with a slightly adapted version of the blessing “For Those Who Have Far to Travel” by the wonderful Jan Richardson from her sensational book Circle of Grace. (excerpt above).