Reactive Leadership January 29, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
It has been an interesting three months. From November 6 until January 27, I spent most of my time bent over in pain as a sliver of bone gouged into a cluster of nerves along my lower spine. I have never known such pain and distress in my life. It wasn’t fun for me, and I wasn’t fun for anyone else. Blessedly, wonderfully, joyously the thorn in my flesh detached and I am (relatively) pain-free for the first time in almost three months. As the fog clears (pain and pain medication are wonderful ways to stop paying attention to almost everything) I am observing the current messages in our denomination about leadership, planning, the future, and our best way forward and I am just as confused as when I was heavily medicated. I attended the Quadrennial Training in Nashville on Adaptive Leadership and have delved more deeply into Vital Congregations and Healthy Church Initiative — and it makes me wonder if anyone consulting our denomination has read anything new in the past dozen years?
Spirituality KAMP January 16, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection, Small Groups, spiritual practices.
Tags: spiritual practices
I received a wonderful email from one of my “kids” (a member of a youth group I led in 1978) who tracked me down and shared a humbling note. Here is part of what she wrote:
…over the past thirty-five years I have attended Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist churches, and I have been very active in all of them. I am both a teacher and a student, active in Sunday school, Bible Studies, and a wide variety of small groups. A friend of mine passed along an article you wrote (which is how I found you) and I need to tell you that throughout all these years and all the different groups I have been a part of, nothing has ever even come close to the experience I had in your Spirituality Kamp when I was a teenager. I learned more, grew more, and became a better Christian more than I have in any other group in my whole life.
One of the challenges of ministry is that a leader often has little or no idea what impact she or he is making through preaching, teaching, counseling, spiritual formation, etc. It is always a gift when someone takes the time to let a leader know that they made a difference. It is a nice affirmation, but it also brought back to mind one of the most fulfilling and exciting periods in my young ministry. Bear with me as I tell a story, then hopefully I can make some useful observations.
In the seventies, I was working on a couple community development projects and one of the tools we used was KAP analysis. K=knowledge/skills; A=attitudes; P=practices. A KAP analysis helped struggling communities get a fairly good sense of the human resources and communal strengths it could draw from to develop and grow. I “borrowed” (stole) the basic concept and developed a KAMP model (K=knowledge and skills; A=attitudes and values; M=meaning and purpose; P=practices and exercises) to use with teenagers in the church. One summer, while our normal youth group went on hiatus, I launched a bi-weekly Spirituality Kamp, where anyone who was interested would gather to assess their personal current reality and set goals for growth and spiritual development. Very simply, each participant took an inventory in each of the four KAMP areas: what do I know and what do I know how to do? What are my core beliefs and guiding values? What gives my life meaning and how do I define my sense of purpose? What are the things I do on a regular basis to strengthen my relationship with God and help me live more like Jesus Christ?
From there, each person developed a personal vision and action plan. Every participant created a list of those things they wanted to learn/learn how to do, ways they wanted to improve their attitudes and expand their worldview, live more fully a meaningful and purposeful life, and engage in personal and shared practices to strengthen our relationship with God. Each person was paired with someone else, and when we gathered together we basically shared how well we were working on our plans, and ways we could support one another in what we were doing. We began with six youth, but had to move to a larger space within two months, averaging about twenty kids each meeting — and it became a year-round program. When I moved to New Jersey, I relaunched the process (calling it Pneuma – meaning “spirit,” “breath,” or “wind.”).
Without actually meaning to (and before I ever knew about Wesleyan class/band/society accountability groups) I created a safe space for an open exploration customized to the needs and spiritual maturity of every participant. I was nothing more than a catalyst for a very natural formation process. Of all the “programs” I’ve been responsible for over the years, Spirituality KAMP actually demanded the least amount of preparation or expertise. It was, for the young people involved, a true peer-learning experience. It was an immersion in a real discipleship process — self-defined expectations and goals with a positive and affirming structure of mutual accountability.
Time For A New Mission? January 10, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Identity & Purpose, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church, Transformation and Change, Vision.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
Let’s be honest. The United Methodist Church has done a remarkably poor job living up to its stated mission (making disciples of Jesus Christ (1996) for the transformation of the world (2008)). In the same way as Igniting Ministry failed to live up to its slogan (more people find closed minds, hearts and doors in the UMC than experience a radical openness…) our entire denomination is failing to deliver well-equipped, highly motivated, deeply committed disciples engaged in world-transforming activity. The misguided attempts at restructuring our church have as much to do with missional ambiguity and ignorance as intentional resistance or political sabotage. How do you adopt an “appropriate” structure when you don’t know what results you are trying to produce? The existing structure is not designed to produce authentic discipleship, and the various recommendations and “plans” weren’t designed for discipleship either. The sad fact is, discipleship is that to which we pay lip service, not what we desire with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
A system is designed for the results it is getting. Those 18th and 19th century holdovers from historic United Methodism and its antecedents were designed for the pre-modern and proto-modern culture they served. Mere modifications and adjustments to centuries old conventions is foolish. (Think about our current state of being were medicine and science to have adopted a similar mindset!) We are old wine in new skins — and we are shocked when there is leakage and bursting. The United Methodist Church in North America in 2013 is not committed to discipleship. It is committed to institutional preservation, enamored by big buildings and valuable property, in love with celebrity pastors, and engaged in mostly passive, representative ministries (i.e., I will put five dollars in the plate to pay someone else to do ministry for me).
Strategy 101: Ten Simple Planning Mistakes to Avoid January 7, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Strategic Planning.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose
This is an often-requested article I wrote over ten years ago. I reprint it here, hoping it still offers value to a new audience.
Musicians become true artists by first playing scales. Star athletes exercise daily and practice the same plays time and again so that they can respond in any given situation without thinking. Anyone who ever mastered a craft did so by first learning the basics. Unless you master the basics, you’re likely to make mistakes when it matters most.
Strategic planning is every bit as much art as science. What is true for athletes and musicians is true for leaders as well. If you don’t attend to the basics, you’re likely to make errors. Most strategic planning efforts in local congregations fail, not due to poor work or lack of knowledge or commitment, but due to simple mistakes. Here is a list of the top “don’ts” when planning for your congregation:
1. Don’t waste time being right.
2. Don’t assume concurrence.
3. Don’t gather paper. Instead, gather information from people.
4. Don’t hurry.
5. Don’t over-plan.
6. Don’t write mission and/or vision statements.
7. Don’t “publish” your plan.
8. Don’t generalize.
9. Don’t plan “for” other people.
10. Don’t be too serious.
Endings & Beginnings January 4, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection.
Those who know me well know that my 2012 crawled to a close with a whimper and a moan. An old back injury flared up with a bone spur off my spine that keeps me in a constant state of excruciating pain and chronic distress. I have NEVER experienced pain like this — and I hope it is making me much more sympathetic and empathetic with those who live this way all the time. I would wish this on no one, ever, for any reason. The other major event was the death of my father on December 23. Due to my back, I was unable to attend his memorial service and be with my family. (Poor me…)
The significance of these last couple months is a threefold challenge to my personal worldview: control, patience, and perspective.