Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Adaptive Leadership

We've just begun the process of recruiting for the next tranche of Path of Renewal congregations. I'm always careful about stressing that Path of Renewal is just one of the 'experiments' happening around the edges of the church at the moment. It is by no means a panacea. But, as Stefan Paas helpfully reminded us in our conferences on Pioneer Ministry and on Church in a Secular Age last week, change will be effected from the margins, not from the centre. And true innovation cannot be controlled or packaged - for then it ceases to be innovative. But if we can support people while they engage with a culture of experimentation, we leave room for the Spirit to enliven and embolden our efforts.
Much of what we are about in Path of Renewal is bringing to life the principles outlined in the Church Without Walls report of 2001.
Among questions I was asked yesterday are - Why 15 years on are we any more likely to act on the Church Without Walls Report? And how will Path of Renewal seek to do that?
One, perhaps obvious, answer to the first question is that the statistics of decline have only continued to get worse. 
Another answer may be that the prayers of the faithful have led to a new breath of the Spirit.
A third strand is that we are recognising that what is facing the church right now is an Adaptive Challenge that calls for Adaptive Leadership.
Heifetz and Linsky have written much about this. When "problems" can no longer be solved with the tools readily at hand, it's time to experiment with new things that allow us to engage with a new culture. This is not about survival but about thriving in a changed and changing environment.
None of us would deny that the church finds itself in a dramatically altered landscape. To thrive in such a terrain means that we have to sift through the things of our past, retain or reclaim what is still useful in our new environment, jettison those things that hold us back, and find new solutions, new methods of engagement with our culture today.
That will call for adaptive leaders - leaders who, fuelled by ancient practices of prayer, scripture and sacraments are willing not to look for a quick fix but to try out new ways of engagement, new ways of being church today, leaders who are able to hold their nerve and not resort to grasping hold of the latest programme or latest trend but who recognise these as temporary fixes that won't build the resilience that being involved in the mission of God demands of us today.
It's fair to say that most of the ministers currently involved in Path of Renewal recognise that the biggest transformation has been in them. Adaptive challenge calls for adaptive leaders.
It's time, not to ditch the DNA of the church but to change it so that it will thrive and be strengthened for today.

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