Archive for April, 2009

So, we’re working backwards through the development of ministers, and next is Assistants.

The next thing I would do is change the brief of MT&D to the following: to equip and resource Rectors to train Assistants.

It seems to me that the kind of training that Assistants need is not classroom / seminar style training, but the on-the-job training of the actual ministry they are doing. And that is best done on site!

So the task of MT&D could perhaps better be not so much to work with the Assistants, but to equip and resource Rectors to do that training. 

This would mean that taking on an Assistant Minister would not be just a partnership between the church/ Rector and the Assistant; but also between the church/Rector and the Diocese. The church/Rector would need to agree to implement the training program for the Assistant, and take seriously the responsibility of preparing the next generation of ministers.

Instead of pulling the Assistants into town for seminars, MT&D would pull the Rectors in to equip them for the next item of training. My understanding is that content of the training is excellent, but the context needs to be their actual work.

I have experienced this sort of training with my DMin, where the assignments are not just relevant to the ministry, but actually on the ministry that’s being done. 

There’s a theme emerging –  the Parish at the center, and the Diocesan organisation in the support role. Just so crazy it might work!


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So, what would come next after a goal like 80% of the churches growing by at least 10% annually?

The obvious next thing to do would be this:

In each Region, implement a field tested, proven effective strategy for churches to become growing churches. 

And there is such a thing – it has been used for years, across denominations, countries and churches, including in Australia.

The strategy – not just a good idea, but a coherent strategy – goes like this:

  1. do a full weekend consultancy with churches, based on a self-study completed by the church, culminating with an analysis of that church’s top 5 strengths, top 5 areas of concern and for each area of concern, a prescription of what to do to grow
  2. provide a coach for the church and its leadership who will walk with the church for a year in implementing the prescriptions
  3. run monthly minister ‘clusters’, with an effective church builder mentoring the group, teaching them specifics of leadership

This precise strategy is being widely used, and is turning around hundreds of previously plateaued churches into growth. This is about as solid evidence that you can get.

By the way, this is why the Parish Development Ordinance is worth allowing to die a natural death – it’s an idea, rather than a strategy, and like a one-legged stool, may do more harm than good. Presumably, that’s why no one has used it!

So, fellow runners-of-the-Diocese, come up with an alternative offering to help parishes grow that is a) a coherent strategy, not just some isolated good ideas; and b) is field-tested and proven effective.

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Shield of Thomas Cranmer, from Flickr, by little miss sunnydale

Shield of Thomas Cranmer, from Flickr, by little miss sunnydale

So, come with me on a thought experiment …

A thought experiment is where you try on an idea, even an impossible idea, just to see where it leads you. In this case, it’s 2 impossible ideas.

First, me running the Diocese – it doesn’t get much more impossible than that! And second, that anyone actually runs the Diocese. It’s actually a lot more complicated – and difficult – than that. But then, this is only a thought experiment.

So, the first thing I’d do is this:

Recast the Diocesan mission in terms of the parishes.

At the moment, the mission – or at least its pointy end, the so called ‘initial goal’ – is set in terms of the Diocese: 10% of the population of the Region of the Diocese in Bible believing churches.
If I ran the Diocese, I’d recast that to put the parishes front and center.

My version would go something like this: to see 80% or more of the churches be growing churches (where a growing church is defined as having at least 10% increase in average attendance for at least 3 years running).

I think there are a number of advantages putting it this way:

  1. it enacts the values that the center of the Diocese is the parishes
  2. it gives a clarity of direction to the center – to do everything in their power (financial support, encouragement, wisdom etc) to help parishes grow
  3. it is within the realms of possibility. The 10% goal was always totally unrealistic – this was said from the start – it was designed to push our thinking. But I fear that’s using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. This will still push our thinking, but rather than discourage in its implausibility, it would excite precisely because it’s not unimaginable.

The result – if we achieved this for 15  years, the magic of compound interest means that we would be at around 5% of the population!

So, what would you do in terms of the mission if you ran the Diocese?

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Who stole my church?

picJust finished reading the book of this title, by Gordon McDonald (of Restoring Your Broken World fame).

It’s a cute idea. Written as a fable (like many other, eg. Patrick Lencioni’s management series), it centers on a senior Senior minister meeting with a small group of ‘oldies’, to talk about their struggle to cope with the changes happening to ‘their’ church as it seeks to reach out to a new generation – sound familiar? All the issues are there – music, choirs, music, dress, music, sound systems and music.

What makes it even more intense than the average Sydney Anglican church is that in the USA, there is often a strong commitment to 1 congregation only, rather than the ‘divide and conquer’ policy (8am trad, 10am family, 7pm rock ‘n’ roll) that we have mostly pursued. 

The thing that makes the book special is that it not only tries to explain the changes. It also gives a strong – and quite moving – vision of the kind of really positive contribution oldies can make, precisely to a new generation.

Often enough I had to wipe a tear or two away as I read and thought, ‘I’d love for something like this to happen more often in our churches.’

If you’ve got some oldies struggling with change, this could be a helpful resource. I’m thinking of gathering a group to read the book together, as a way into a conversation.

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With straightforward instructions like “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up” (Eph 4.29) and “do all things without murmuring and arguing” (Phil 2.14), expressing criticism can be a spiritually dangerous activity.

So, when is it safe? Here are some ideas

  1. when you have prayed about the issues/person, as much as you have criticised it
  2. when you are as positive about other things as you are critical about this
  3. when you apply to yourself self same standards as you apply to the thing about which you are critical
  4. when the intensity of the criticism matches the significance of the issue

What else should go on this list?

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This is from P. J. O’Rourke’s 25th John Bonython Lecture “Invisible Hand versus Visible Fist”, Centre of Independent Studies. 21 April 2009 

[I want to end by making a point from] the tenth commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social morals “Thy shalt not make grave images, murder” etc. Fair enough. 

But  then there’s the tenth commandment. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s house, thy shall not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant nor maidservant, his ox or anything that is thy neighbour’s.” Here are God’s basic rules of how we should live. A brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts and right at the end of it is “Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.” 

Why would God with ten things to tell Moses chose one of these things to warn against jealousy of your neighbour’s lifestyle? Yet think how important that tenth commandment is to a community, to a nation, with democracy, to any political systems. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t whine about what the people across the street have– go get your own! 

The ten commandment sends a message to the G20, to all the world’s political leaders, to all the world’s political activists. And it’s a message about their political promises, for fairness, for bailout, for stimulus packages, for regulation, redistribution, entitlement programs, tax, borrow and spend policies, and for every other kind of fairness.  And the message is clear and concise – go to hell! 

That’s all I know. Thank you. 

Not sure about the exegesis, the theology, the economics, the social policy implications – or much at all – of this, but you gotta love the gumption!

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So, the second question is ‘how’?

If that’s the vision for a life lived for Christ, how do you grow into that? What are the concrete and specific things I need to do to be changing into that kind of person?

From Flickr, by ArtByChrysti

At CCIW, we’ve been ruthlessly specific – 5 things:

  1. join in corporate worship
  2. have a rich devotional life
  3. share in joyous fellowship
  4. serve in ministry
  5. extend a gracious witness

There are two sides to this coin, then.

On the one hand, this is what we are asking people to do – not more, not less. In particular, we’re not going to take up your entire week! And that means being free to be making contact with the mums at school and the guys at the football club etc

And second, these five things (we call them ‘the means of grace’) give very precise shape to the ministry programs we run to help people grow. In other words, we shape the ministries of the church to serve people’s growth, rather than ask people to serve the ministries of the church.


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