Pioneers on leadership

Monday, 22 April, 2013

A selection of pioneers discuss leadership, in interviews recorded at the Break Out conference for pioneers.

Duration: 15:20   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


Jonathon Dowman: In the context of a fresh expression of church, the leaders who we seek to find are those who are committed, not to seeing church done well, but seeing the kingdom grow, engaging with friends, neighbours, work colleagues, the poor and the needy, whoever the church is called to work with and seeing engagement with those people and Jesus modelled to those people in whatever way we are called to. I think sometimes people shy away from leadership  in the church because they relate it to church services, to preaching or leading worship or presiding at communion which are important things, but in a fresh expression of church it's far more about being witnesses to the gospel.

Andrew Dunlop: Right from the beginning it was just me and my wife and my son and my cat moved on to this estate and it was a fairly large estate of 1,100 houses so I was very aware that I couldn't do everything myself and I would need to find a small core group of committed Christians who were also committed to seeing some sort of mission on the new housing development. I wanted to get those people around me so we could pray and discern together, so it wasn't just my ideas about what to do but it was a shared kind of team vision of how we might move forward.

Frances Shoesmith: When we first set up our fresh expression in Bootle, we set it up between myself and the associate vicar of the parish. He then left and I was needing to find someone to lead with me so I asked one of the other leaders who at that stage was simply leading the creche, he was looking after the children so that the mums could join in the sessions that we were doing. And at first she was just terrified essentially, but with a bit of encouragement she decided that she would have a go. And all the way through it was always a bit of a struggle for her and it continues to be a struggle now. She's now the overall leader of the fresh expression now that I've moved to a different post. But I think what's made the difference is that she's been given an awful lot of encouragement from other people and I was very much aware that I would be leaving her with quite a challenge but I was in the fortunate position of moving out in phases. So I stepped away from the overall leadership but was still a member of the fresh expression, so I was able to support her as she started to take on more and more of the reigns.

Jonny Baker: I think leadership's a really key question and challenge in the Church in lots of ways. One of the things I suppose about leadership is we have such a high expectation of kind of training and theology and all that sort of stuff that we expect a leader to learn, that the stuff you've got to get in place to lead seems to be prohibitive in some way. So I think we've somehow got to relax that set of expectations. But actually in terms of involving people in leadership, I don't think it's that difficult. I think there are people who have natural gifts of leadership, the real challenge is creating a culture where there's... you know, participation is expected, is valued, and where people's gifts are easily recognised, there invited to take part in things - before they've got their life together and completely sorted and so on.

Andrew Dunlop: Initially we wanted to just find anybody with the same sort of vision for the estate who was also a committed Christian at the beginning, just a small core group of committed Christians and from there I have looked around my core team and started to wonder what the gifts they already had were. So God has brought them to be part of this group, God has equipped them with particular gifts, and already I can see the gifts that they're using often without realising it and gifts that I want to develop a bit further in them.

Dave Male: If you, from day one, are looking for developing leaders it's then... you're then in a sense all the time listening to people and conversations and what they're saying and what is happening and you're beginning to identify with other people who are likely leaders and then beginning to bring them in and give them roles and develop some kind of training alongside that to help them. And I think probably the key thing in all this is helping them to share the vision that you have as one of the leaders of what is happening - and who are the people who you really feel are sharing that vision for this church that God has given you and others and therefore they can take it on. And not only take it on and just woodenly say well let's do it the way it's always done but actually what now does this look like for us as leaders and in this new context.

Jonny Baker: I think there's also a challenge if you're talking about leadership in a completely new community where you've started something where there wasn't something about having the courage to recognise people in that community and nurture a spirituality and I think there's a different thing going on in terms of what the outsider needs to do which is very much a spirituality that's letting go of control, that's resisting doing, that's laying stuff down whereas I think for the insider to the culture the posture that needs encouraging for them is to believe in their own culture and to believe in their own self and, if you like, to go the extra mile in that direction, to believe that God is present and at work and not... you know sometimes I think in communities and cultures they think the outsider is going to be the expert, but there's a kind of encouragement for the indigenous to not believe that but to trust in their own instincts about culture and so on, but actually coupled with the outsider resisting taking on that role. I mean that's been played out in missions overseas in many good and bad ways - I think you get the same thing here.

Ian Bell: I think it's really important that in whatever new Christian community we're developing that we're working really hard at making sure that we're growing leaders from amongst that community so that it's not dependent on somebody who may have come in from outside and may have developed an understanding of the community but may at some stage move on and certainly can't be relied upon to do everything on their own. So I think it's very important that from within that community itself people are constantly being encouraged to explore and be released to  exercise their gifts of leadership.

Frances Shoesmith: I think in some cases indigenous leadership is the right way to go but maybe a mixture of trained leadership from other places working with indigenous leadership, so that the indigenous leaders are supported and are then given the training - whether it's on the job training or more specific formal training - and I think that combination probably works better.

Simon Sutcliffe: In my context I'm working with people, some people who have had very little schooling, they are generally... they've never been in middle management kind of jobs in their working environment if they've ever worked at all, so sometimes I'm working with people who have never been given those kinds of responsibilities before and would naturally not assume to take them on. And so you kind of have to encourage them and a phrase I sometimes use is I'm not sure you believe in God but I'm fairly sure God believes in you. So if God believes in you then I'll believe in you and I'll just help you believe in yourself. And then helping people believe in themselves and then offering them opportunities to grow and to lead and to fully participate in a community.

Jonathan Dowman: The people within any worshipping community are the ones who are best placed to see its growth and its development and its engagement with mission rather than a leader who comes in from outside who is new to the area, new to the city, new to the suburb or the village or the town. But we're still working in a model  which provides professional Christians to do the work on behalf of the wider Church. And so I'd like to see the members themselves taking ownership of the church, of the community, and they're best placed to know what's right missionally.

Simon Sutcliffe: I think that this whole business of indigenous leadership and finding the right people to come alongside you is vital. They way I've approached it is to recognise what my gift set is, what is it that I bring to the community and to the kingdom and to this group of people and if we want to be a really good well efficient and functioning people in the kingdom of God, who else do I need. And most people who know me will tell you that I'm a big picture person, I do vision and I can do ideas and I can generate ideas but I'm not a finisher so as soon as the idea's been agreed by a group of people I assume it's been done and I'm onto the next idea. So to have people around me who say right, how's that going to be done, what are the steps we need to take to get that done and who and where that is. And that's not to say that I'm the leader because I came up with the idea, it's more that together we kind of share in the responsibility of growing this community. It means for somebody who might be seen as the leader I have to do a lot of work with the way in which I use power and the way in which I'm seen to treat authority. It also means that I have to let go of a lot of the things that I might want to control in order that other people can take that responsibility.

Dave Male: There can be problems when particularly the founding leader leaves and someone else comes in maybe in a paid role to do that. I think that second role is a really hard but important role because you need someone who can in a sense develop what is already there as well as just kind of keeping going. I think one of the mistakes in the past is that church leaders, permission-givers, have tended to say we've had a pioneer, we now need a settler and that is a huge error and often what happens then is all the mission imperative of this new church gets lost. But I think that second role is actually quite a unique role of someone who is both a pioneer and a kind of sustainer as well so it's a kind of missionary pastor role. And it's finding that right kind of person who shares the DNA but has the ability to build on what is already there and often to kind of  create that right environment to help people both grow in their faith and to see other people come to faith. And they're not easy things. And I think the other thing that is deep there as well is a sense of 'I really don't want to mess this up' because this person's done this and I am going to look really bad if I mess this up. And so there is an internal pressure that is there - and maybe partly an external - of well how is this person now comparing to the person that started it off and, you know, are they better, are they worse, what do people think of me... all those pressures are there so I think you do need someone who is quite a robust character to be able to kind of take that on and develop it and not just to be a clone of the previous leader as well but to be able to take it on further and develop it and to be looking more and more for indigenous leaders for the next stage of the growth of the fresh expression.

Jonathan Dowman: As a second generation of leader in a fresh expression you are aware of the previous few years that have gone before and the work that's gone in and you want to honour that and to continue it but you're also aware that within the movement of fresh expressions there is no set pattern of doing things, there isn't an understanding of this is how we do church here and it's always been done in this way and it works. Actually if we're seeking to reach new people with the gospel then we have to continually evolve and change what we're doing as the people in the culture around us change. And that can be hard with an existing community that's been planted and has found itself and identity but also bringing in a sense of newness and discovery to that process.

Ian Bell: With the VentureFX pioneering ministries scheme that I'm connected with it's one of our key values that we actually gather the pioneers together so that they're physically present with one another on a monthly basis and although it's a big ask because some have to travel quite a distance and it does eat into their time and diaries, none of them quibble about it, none of them mind coming, in fact if they're not able to come for one reason or another they really miss it. And a number of them have said that for them it's a lifeline, it's somewhere where they can draw encouragement, support, nourishment, where they're able to perhaps test out some ideas in a safer environment where people won't laugh at them or won't be offended by the things that they say. So I think we've developed a kind of community of people who are travelling together, journeying a road as part of a movement of pioneers which I think is absolutely key to the way in which they're able to flourish.

Andrew Dunlop: I think whilst every context is different, there can be a number of similarities between you and other contexts and God's given some gifts to me and other gifts to other pioneers in various different places and so it's always... well first of all encouraging to talk to another pioneer who perhaps has been in it a bit longer than you have and to see what God has been doing through them, and it allows the process of just opening up your imagination for what might happen in your own context, knowing that God is guiding and leading you through it. So it's encouraging to start with but as well as getting these ideas from what other people might have done that perhaps you can you know nick wholeheartedly and perhaps you can just adapt for your own context but perhaps you might not have thought of those things before.


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