Reflections on global leadership in community: Millennials

It was on my flight out to the global leadership gathering in Germany, that I began to reflect on the challenge of involving future generations with mission. The Business Life magazine from BA, contained the following quote,

‘One of the best ways to be equipped for the future is to give more responsibility to younger employees, says Brent Hoberman, who recently took part in the Evening Standard’s Young Progress makers event aimed at addressing some of the challenges the new generation is facing. Hoberman believes the speed of technological change is the greatest of these: “The young need the right skills to cope with the future. In the new economy, creativity will be crucial.” And young Londoners have an advantage, he says: simply by living in a city that is so multicultural, they will be likely to be receptive to different ideas.’

Of course, this issue of the magazine was all about London, so clearly they were talking up the city. But, there is something about growing up in a multicultural, multi-racial, technologically advanced metropolis that has an impact on the way a generation will approach life.

For mission organisations, we face a challenge of how to work with this new generation – even how to hand leadership over to them. We aren’t, yet, doing it very well.

I’m not, technically, a millennial, but I do identify with most experiences of the early millennials. This article, Why millennials are leaving the church, by Rachel Held Evans, could have been written about me.

Reflections on global missional leadership in community: Intentionality

Personal Reflection

To give some background, like so many people in similar roles, I have never intentionally sought a leadership position. My dream was never to develop a team, take on challenges, or create a different world (I really wanted to be a radio DJ, that’s maybe another story), but over the years I’ve been allowed more experience and more opportunity to do just that. I’ve also discovered that I like this kind of thing and maybe I fit this much better than I would any radio studio.

In some ways, however, I feel like I’ve missed a step. In never intentionally seeking leadership roles I’ve not, until more recently, intentionally developed myself in this area.

Last week’s consultation helped me to reflect on my personal situation and reminded me that it would be helpful to get involved leadership conversations and intentionally take time to reflect and develop personally in the area of leadership. I should probably say that it’s not that I see myself as a bad or ill-equipped leader, but I know with more intentionality I can grow in this area.

Other intentional applications

The kinds of consultations we have in the Alliance don’t always result in fixed conclusions. We discuss ideas, develop some theories, raise new questions, but we don’t go away with a 5-point plan of how to apply what we’ve covered. I understand why some find that frustrating, but for me, it raises the question of what I can do within my sphere of influence to develop some of the themes with my team.

In my earlier post, I listed four areas that I was impacted by last week. Intentionality; millennials; globalisation, nationalism and polycentrism; and change and opportunity – in being intentional, it’s now down to my community to interpret these areas into our working practices. That’s me deciding to be intentional in what I do.

Reflections on global missional leadership in community: personal thoughts

The room that was buzzing with discussion from all corners of the world is now empty. Last week was both excellent, and hard work. Excellent to be involved in that network, and to intentionally listen to different groups and points-of-view, knowing that at the core, our desire was to see God glorified and his mission advanced in each of our contexts. Hard work, in that it’s sometimes difficult to listen to and accept points-of-view that challenge your preconceived ideas.

Having said all that, the hard work really starts now. Sitting in a room, where you’ve gathered for the purpose of discussing global missional leadership in community, it’s easy to see everything as possible. Leaving that environment and going back to the daily routine (whatever that may be) and not losing all the good thoughts from the week is where the real challenge begins.

How do I take the discussions of last week, develop some personal outcomes and bring them to bear in the areas where I have some influence?

Some things I’ve been thinking about in relation to leadership:

Intentionality: It’s easy for me to think I’m in leadership by accident and just rely on personal attributes and experience to see me through. But, I as I find myself entering a new season of life and a new role with new responsibilities, it’s important that I rethink the context of my work and what I need to lead well in this new context. I need to be intentional in equipping myself to lead.

I can also make a choice to lead when the situation arises, or be intentional about my leadership. It’s very easy to wait for the ‘right time’, whatever that may look like, but I’m starting to see that I can have some influence over enabling the time to be right.

Millennials: Almost all involved in this consultation acknowledged that there is a challenge in enabling millennials (Gen Y) join mission within our organisations. It’s not that we aren’t open to the next generation, it’s just that our systems and structures are so often formed around the boomer generation that those born in the 80s or later don’t feel that they fully fit with us.

Globalisation, nationalism and polycentrism: Influence and leadership now comes from all over the place. There are Christian centres of influence outside of Europe and North America that should and can lead in a global environment. How do I take on a posture of learning and openness with my brothers and sisters from other countries and still contextualise for my own context?

Change and opportunity: We are all dealing with change. In the car travelling to the airport today, my colleagues were talking about how the pace of change in the last 25 years is equivalent to the pace of change over the previous 200 years. There’s a leadership challenge in there. How do we lead in an environment of continual change? As digital technology continues to advance, travel becomes easier, but maybe political and ideological challenges have a significant impact on our world, how do we lead within this?

There’s more to think through with all of this, and other things I’ve not yet mentioned. I’ll try to develop my thoughts in the days to come, but I’m now at the airport getting ready to fly home. It’s time to go and find my gate and get back to my family.

Global leadership in community final day

It’s too early to properly reflect on this week’s conversations. We have covered a lot on the subject of leadership in community, and really have only just scratched the surface. There are more discussions to have and further to go, but we’ve started.

Below are just a couple of quotes and the questions from today. I’ll follow up with some proper reflections at some point over the weekend.

Integration of discussion

Our prayer time together was a living expression of what it means to be leaders in community. We belong to one another because we are the body of Christ.

We have discussed multiple, complex concepts – leadership, the mission of God, community. These aren’t easy topics.

Questions

Who are the communities that I interact with as a leader?
What insights did I gain from our conversations this week that either confirms or challenges my understanding of myself as a leader, or myself as a leader-in-community?
Considering the previous question, what are the most important two or three things I would need to, or wish to change in my approach to leadership?
What will I need to do to make this change?
How do we expand this conversation within and beyond the Alliance – deeper and broader?

Global realities to leading in community, some thoughts

The photo for this piece comes from our trip to Marburg on Wednesday. It’s a town about an hour from where we are, where Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli discussed the symbolism of the elements in the Lord’s Supper. The following is from Wikipedia:

The Marburg Colloquy was a meeting at Marburg Castle, Marburg, Hesse, Germany which attempted to solve a disputation between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli over the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. It took place between 1 October and 4 October 1529. The leading Protestant reformers of the time attended at the behest of Philipp I of Hessen. Philipp’s primary motivation for this conference was political; he wished to unite the Protestant states in political alliance, and to this end, religious harmony was an important consideration.

I assume the painting in the photograph is Luther and Zwingli in the midst of their discussion.

Back to the leading in community discussion…

Wednesday 15th March

How do any of the global realities discussed, shape your understanding about yourself as a leader with the Alliance?

  • Power and authority
  • Globalisation vs nationalism
  • Polycentrism
  • Funding challenges
  • Changing technology and information overload
  • Corruption
  • Secularism
  • Millennial rising
  • Rising fundamentalism
  • Keeping up with constant change

What opportunities and challenges do you face that these global realities hold for collective leadership within the Alliance?

How could we as leaders better understand and work with these realities in order to provide more effective leadership within our local and global contexts?

Thursday 16th March

Much of our focus is on the leader – the charismatic, servant, inspirational leader. Yet, we know, no one leader is able to tackle the challenges of our world today. So we want to move away from that, and learn what it means to be a leader in community.

The place of Friendship in the Mission of God (Kirk J Franklin and Cornelius J.P. Niemandt)

‘A missiology of friendship as well as community in the missio Dei creates a greater openness to others by walking and serving humbly as friends with Christ and each other. The theme of friendship in God’s mission draws inspiration from Jesus’ willingness to give his life for his friends. Knowing the crucified Christ intimately through participating in community and friendship provides an essential foundation for mission. Valuing friendship as a core value demonstrates Christ’s love that overcomes the issues of inequality and racism. A missiological understanding of friendship and community deepens the value of partnering in mission. This helps create a third space – friendship in mission – which helps overcome the gap between the West’s new colonialism and its power and resources, and the global South and East, who live without the power and influence of financial resources.’

Exploration of what this concept means: Leading in community.

The Alliance, Principles of community, came out of a discussion in Ghana in 2012 and were recently affirmed in a consultation on community in December 2016.

  • We are created for community and called to community (creation and calling).
  • We are God’s people, called to consistently and lovingly relate and behave according to the instruction of his word and the example of Christ (identity-who we are together).
  • Living and serving in community glorifies God and provides a tangible example of the Gospel in action. We reflect the image of God through intentionally modelling authentic community (how we live together).
  • A community that glorifies God attracts people to God and his mission (what we do together).

Our questions

Again, lots of our thoughts came out of table group discussions, and it doesn’t really seem to work to note down the outcomes here without more context. I’ll give you the questions and maybe draw some conclusions at some point over the weekend. Tomorrow morning is our final session, so we are about to wrap this up… at least, do as much wrapping up as is possible in a conversation of this nature.

In what ways do these principles reflect your personal leadership practice within your immediate work community?

In what ways do these principles affect the community mentioned above?

Given the Alliance’s Principles on Community and our discussions up to this point, why would we consider the concept of leading-in-community to be important?

What does it mean to lead in community: locally and globally?

Given our learning of what it means to lead in community, what would be some unique characteristics of this kind of leadership?

How would this growing understanding of leading in community change practice within the Alliance, as well as within your local context?

Talking about global realities

The second day of this consultation on global leadership in community, we started the conversation about global realities – what’s happening in the world today that has an impact on our leadership.

Before I get into some of the questions and thoughts that came up during the day, I should first mention something about the way these consultations work. A good proportion of our work is conducted through conversations in groups around tables, and then by feeding back to the wider group.

Where it is appropriate, I’ve captured the group feedback and shared it here. But, this is by no means the total of our conversations. I’ve not noted here some of the excellent rabbit trails of thought, or single quotes that work well in the context of our discussions but that probably lose meaning when presented in out of context.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you taking the questions from here and running your own consultation in church or with your leadership colleagues. If you’d like some pointers to get you started I’d be happy to put you in touch with those gifted in this area.

And now, on to today…

We spoke about paying attention to the signs of the times.

In the introduction to the day, six issues were introduced that we have to deal with:

  • power and authority
  • Globalisation vs nationalism (deglobalisation)
  • polycentrism
  • funding challenges
  • changing technologies
  • Information overload

Then we thought some more about the issue of power and authority.

In the ethics of Bible translation who makes the decisions? What gets translated, when, for whom, what language?

In, Discourses of Power by Barry Hindess:

  • The capacity to act is a part of being a human being. We possess a certain power to do things.
  • From an ethical point-of-view comes the question, who has the right to act?
  • Then there’s the concept, when many people or groups are involved, who has the presumed right to act? Because of assumed power (nationality, background, status) they have the right to work.

In, The Academy of the Poor, by Gerald West:

The need to listen to…

  • people from the communities
  • people from organisations

Speaking for…

Often there’s a tendency to speak on behalf of others. As though those communities don’t have a voice. Does our presumed right to act mean that we speak for others, rather than speaking with others?

We can only move beyond ‘speaking for’ and ‘listening to’ if we are willing to enter into a ‘speaking with’… (32)

This is what Jesus did in joining us to ‘live with’ us.

Developing our own list

We moved on to create our own list of issues, by answering the following:

  • In light of the issues, what other global realities also affect you as a leader?
  • How does one or more of these realities affect you a leader, as well as the context in which you provide leadership?

This gave us the following as issues:

  • A new generation is coming
  • Transition from industrial to information age
  • millennials
  • religious fundamentalism
  • Need to plan, but slowed down by previous systems
  • multiple allegiances to movements
  • Secularism
  • Understanding of mission in a postmodern world
  • Decolonisation
  • Rise of pre-Christian cultural beliefs
  • Human migrations and brain drain
  • Colonial ideology
  • Corruption – the church’s role
  • Keep up with constant change
  • Global fundraising
  • Cultural expressions of power
  • Cyber-security
  • Online addictions

We then discussed the areas that have the most impact on us in the Alliance.

We are on an outing for some of tomorrow, so there may not be time to update you on progress. Thanks for those of you who are praying for me while I’m here.

Orientation to a missiological consultation on global leadership in community

This week I’m taking part in a missiological consultation on global leadership in community. We are taking the time to think through what God has to say into a conversation on global leadership.

These are my notes so far. They are imperfect and incomplete, but they are what I managed to capture. I’ll try to make them work in this context, but please bear with me if there are things that don’t make complete sense.

Today was the first day, so we spent a good chunk of time setting the scene.

Background

Prof Piet Meiring:

There are numerous challenges and opportunities facing all who are involved in God’s Mission in the often-confusing globalised world of the 21st Century. With deep understand of the issues at stake, coupled with keen historical and theological insights, we are encouraged to join the Triune God in his mission to the world, but also to explain what it takes to be a missionary leader today.

Dr Paul Bendor-Samuel:

Responding to challenges through the lens of missiological reflection has resulted in a total organisational transformation for the Alliance that is encouraging and influencing a new Bible translation movements around the world and enabling the emergence of a  new kind of leadership;

‘There is an urgent need for the development of global missional leaders who are able to make sense of our times, and are capable of understanding and leading locally.’

Louis and Susan Sutton WEC:

‘…a new approach to global leadership is needed, one that displays generosity of spirit, values friendship among leaders, and invites missiological reflection in the context of community.’

Dr Kirk Franklin

The concept of community in mission may be somewhat countercultural, going as it does against values of independence. Therefore, some considerations concerning its importance include the following:

  • It starts with the desire for any mission movement or structure to become a community of trust, with friendship as an expression of the unity of believers;
  • Community is essential in mission, and relies upon the spirit…(missed the end of this point)
  • Harmonious inter-cultural relationships are required because working in community is essential. God’s desire is for resources to be willingly, readily and generously shared through the community of God’s people, so that all may benefit
  • Community is dependent upon God’s grace because the work of the cross is the ultimate equaliser among people.

Introduction

We are here to explore together what it means to be leaders together in a constantly changing global mission context.

We meet together for the glory of God to give him honour so that his kingdom comes closer to this world that badly needs it.

A new model is needed

Cultural diversity has put pressure on mission. We know this, but nothing tells us how to form community in this.

We have to have wider pools of missiologically informed leaders who can lead in this context.

Discussions

Our discussions focussed around the following four points.

  • The triune God fully embodies his mission
  • The mission of the triune God has the whole of creation in focus
  • The triune God is the ultimate example of unity and friendship
  • The triune God in mission is the initiator, originator and source of authentic giving, receiving and generosity.

We took time to work through these four points, answering the following questions,

  • How do these statements reflect your current understanding of being a leader within God’s mission?
  • What do you think these statements to mean?
  • Given this understanding, what is the significance of these statements in shaping us as leaders within God’s mission?

Then we took time for some personal reflection,

  • Consider how you as a leader, or your approach to leadership, will change if it is to be shaped by this growing understanding of the mission of God