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Churches, Cultures & Leadership – chapter 10

Posted by Mark Lau Branson on May 11, 2011

Chapter 10 – “Leading Change” – is rooted in the preceding chapters concerning cultural boundary-crossing. The usual priorities for pastors tend to focus on providing pastoral care, preaching, and programs for those who are already in the church and others who are “like us.” Our focus on following God into the diverse environments of our neighborhoods requires other frameworks and competencies for pastoral leadership. I use an extended case study for rethinking this work. I am not providing a model or road but new ways of engaging members and neighbors. Have you seen examples of how pastors engaged adaptive challenges? Are there approaches here that seem especially attractive or jarring?


30 Responses to “Churches, Cultures & Leadership – chapter 10”

  1. T Hopkins said

    I disagree with fundamental assumptions made in the book, such as the inherent value of a congregation being pluralistic rather than reflecting a single culture. I will come to this point again, but for now I will address the chapter within the bounds of its own values and assumptions.

    Branson does very well to bind everything together within the interpretive circle. It is tempting to allow people to direct the church rather than to follow God’s own revealed will, and placing interpretation first is a good way to temper this tendency. There are two other principles for leadership which are suggested by Branson and seem very good to me. First, the recognition of the need for the people of the congregation to be given back the “power”. This concepts needs to be carefully considered and applied so as not to neglect the role of the elders and revealed instruction. Within that, however, leaders often ignore the actual makeup of the church, hoping instead to control its shape according to their own desires, cramming the congregation into a box that it does not naturally fit into. Second, and intimately related, is the recognition that the movement of the church should be informed by the insights and experiences of the congregation. That is, the church has its own shape (as mentioned above) which should govern how the church is managed by the elders.

    Here is part of where there is a disconnect between the general assumption of the book and those good principles contained within. Not all congregations, shaped by the experiences of the people, should be ethnically or culturally diverse, and any elder moving the church towards pluralism in against the people’s wishes is ignoring that. If the congregation were not diverse, would there be a problem with making it the best monocultural church it should be? Whatever God brings to the church should be dealt with well (which means not rejecting any new cultures or ethnicities that may come in), but that adaptive behavior is just that — adaptation, not prescription and direction. Diversity has advantages, as does a monoculture. More to the point, a church is a tool to be used by God for serving, and to insist that all tools be shaped uniformly is a narrow-minded approach to ministry. The Church as a whole has much ministry to do, and each individual group of believers has its own makeup and purpose. As a last note on assumptions, this book is clearly targeted towards the church as an organization, focusing much effort on what might be labeled “church life” and, while this can be informed by Scripture, it often seems to ignore the larger context of Scripture’s meaning in order to focus only on a particular view of the local church institution. As noted previously, I will engage with the book’s content under its own assumptions.

    The categorizing of church movement into “technical” and “adaptive” types is probably flawed at a deeper level, but for purposes of discussion, it seems to work well. Many churches simply think they need to do the same thing but better, and then their church will become “successful”. To be able to point to some paradigm and say, “You cannot move your church using a technical approach when there need to be changes in attitudes and behaviors” allows the conversation and the problems to be put into solid terms that can then be discussed systematically.

    The emphasis Branson places on conversation is great, since it brings the leaders into the world of the congregation (not that they should ever be seen as separate from “the congregation”). Ramon’s exploration of the church this way allowed him to lead much better than an aloof elder would have otherwise been able to. Too many elders think their job is to meet in an exclusive meeting behind closed doors in order to determine the nature and course of the church. I have not, in fact, seen many pastors handle adaptive situations well. Most seem to have too much of a business model in their minds which positions them as CEOs who direct the company as they see fit, hoping to maximize profits (in this case, the currency is butts-in-pews). The best management I have seen is when pastors truly are simply servant leaders, teaching the congregation and allowing the church to move organically however it moves. A very white Baptist church here in SoCal has a handful of Armenians, Greeks, Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics. Without obsessing over diversity, the congregation is able to simply move together, work together, and evolve together, paying no special attention to ethnicity yet responding quite well to the needs of the congregation. This is a rare sight, and it is much less of a structured, directed approach than found in this last chapter from Branson. It seems to work well.

  2. Pisey Sok said

    In my internship experience at the church I am currently attending, I have seen the pastoral leadership actively engage in adaptive changes. For instance, our young adult ministry has been in a season of transition for a couple of years and with it comes many adaptive challenges. There are aspects of uncertainty, unfamiliar leadership roles because there was no specific pastor assigned to job, undefined resources, and lack of objectives and competencies. Due to staff downsizing, each of the pastoral leaders had additional tasks added to their job description. The senior pastor decided to contribute extra time to the young adult ministry. The senior pastor got together with some core young adult leaders in the church and created a space to exchange personal narratives and explore the cultural narrative that are impacting the young adult community at our church. There was no set agenda or goal for the group it was simply a place to discern what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives and in the lives of other young adults in our faith community.

    We used the book, Deep Change by Robert Quinn, as a guide for discussion and personal reflection. It was a book that looked at the aspect incremental change versus deep change, which is similar to Heifetz and Linsky’s concept of technical and adaptive change. We spent six months exploring our personal narrative of change and using the space to discern what God is doing among us. The encouraging aspect was that the senior pastor did not come with an agenda or the “right answers” or quick fixes, but was going through the adaptive challenges with us. We are still currently in the process of discerning and sharing this space of learning, while at the same “managing the holding environment” by keeping young adult Sunday school class and other organizational activities going for the young adult community. Much of the Sunday school curriculum or topics directly stem from our shared “Deep Change Group” with the senior pastor. For instance, our last Sunday school series was on “social awkwardness,” which came from a shared group narrative about dealing with social barriers that prevented genuine community to from at our church. It was an insightful study, which allowed young adults in our church to share their own feelings and stories of social awkwardness and explore aspects of barrier crossing that are needed to form deep relationships.

    In terms of approach, I really find the plural leadership model very attractive. My ecclesiology affirms that everyone in the faith community have everything to contribute to the mission of the church, including their gifts, resources, creativity, and their narratives. The notion of giving the “work back to the people” is seeing leadership as an empowering process rather than a controlling or authoritative process. It invites and includes others in the process of interpreting challenges in the social environment, re-imaging vision, and sharing in the process of restructuring and practices of the community. This intentionally invites and welcomes other leadership voices outside of the executive leadership team to contribute their gifts and perspectives to furthering the mission of God through the church community. This leadership emphasis does not place power, control, and responsibility in the hands of a few, but upon the entire community to discern the work of the Holy Spirit among the faith community and the surrounding neighborhood.

    The challenge that generally prevents plural leadership from taking place is a false perception of the clergy and laity split. From my own perception, the fact that some in the church get paid to do the work of God, places more responsibility on the pastoral leadership, and less on responsibility of the congregation. How do churches get over this perception, so that there is a greater sense of ownership in community development and mission?

  3. Ciprian Boitor said

    In terms of examples, I was particularly impressed with the work of paster Kurt. He was sensitive to the call of God in the Romanian community. Pastor Kurt is an American, but is widely accepted in the typically close-knit Romanian community. Fifteen years ago he engaged a group of adolescents on his street in conversation. He started with playing football with them and then invited them to church. This was a group of kids, whose parents attended a very conservative Romanian church, which was disconnected with the American culture. These children grew up and ended up attending Kurt’s church and now serve in that church. Pastor Kurt is very respectful of Romanian culture and customs. He has taken the time to learn a few words in Romanian. He is aware of the cultural diversity in his church which is composed of Romanians, Hispanics and Caucasians, and the congregation responds well to his wise leadership. They also work with the kids in the local community and invite them to various carnivals and events that create important dialogue with the community. I liked the example of pastor Ramon, who encouraged the sharing of stories. This process creates identity and meaning as people reflect on their story and listen to the stories of others. I have thought of church as a place where we go and listen to the pastor share, but am considering the importance of listening to the stories, the voices of those that are below.

  4. Hyukwoo shin said

    Ten years ago, my church which had about 100-150 adult members was a reactionary phase gradually loosing members. Then eight years ago, a new senior pastor arrived and adopted a new ministry system. It was based on weekly small group meetings of 3-4 families called “house churches.” Families were taking turns to prepare and provide a dinner meal every Friday night and host other families in the same group. We would eat, praise, read the bible together, talk and pray about our personal lives. Members were encouraged to invite nonbelievers (and their families) who would eventually be encouraged to attend Sunday worship at our church.
    The problem was that about half of the congregation was retired elderly seniors who were burdened by the new house church system. They complained and resisted saying that having small group meetings every week and serving meals each time was just too much for them. Our senior pastor was under immense pressure for several years to amend the system or even drop it all together. However, he met this adaptive challenge by leaving the channels for conversation open and engaged those who opposed the system in various ways. He would preach about the new system often and also engage the opponents in conversations and during bible group studies. Some of the frustrated members left but our senior pastor managed the holding environment well. He looked for a way to reduce the stress level for seniors. He listened to their voices and the church experimented successfully with “Silver” house churches where seniors would now meet only once a month. They could also meet without sharing a meal outside or even at church on Sundays after worship. In the mean while, the “younger” house churches introduced new members to congregation and occasionally they would be baptizes after 6 months or 1 year. The newly converted believers contributed to a vibrant church atmosphere through their faith testimonies and new activities at our church. Our senior pastor also pointed repeatedly toward these exciting ministry moments through his sermons, bible study time and personal conversations. I think he managed the crisis well and we are back in the “blue zone”. It is really surprising how some senior elders (leaders) who were fierce opponents at the beginning changed their mind. Some of them are shepherds now and actively support the house church system. Our church is not only growing now but we are a more unified body of Christ.

    My church is not really a missional church. All of our members including our pastoral staff live at least 20 minutes away from the church. There is very little ethnic diversity in our congregation. We have only 4 interracial families coming to our church. The children come every week but usually one side of the parents is missing. Younger interracial couples without children would visit us but leave after a while. The English speaking ministry with mostly young singles has very few from different ethnic groups. We have also several homeless people who sleep every night at the doorsteps of our church and sometimes come to our fellowship meals but we are showing very little interest toward them.
    There is definitely a need for raising awareness about our surrounding neighborhood. I believe it is the next adaptive challenge for our church. Tim’s artwork project about the neighborhood (p228) was a great idea. Weekly church bulletins or video news clips during worship last only a very short time in our memories. Having an artwork displayed on which you work together would provide continuous opportunities to raise interest in my church’s neighborhood.
    The idea of forming a partnership with neighborhood churches in children ministry (p230) was also very appealing. We lost a chance like that when my church decided to drop the AWANA program which could have provided many partnership opportunities several years ago. I wish my church would more opportunities again to see how the Holy Spirit points toward our neighborhood so can finally we meet the challenge of shifting to a missional church.

    • T Hopkins said

      It’s interesting to me that you have both an apparently healthy amount of church growth, while at the same time it is difficult to get people interested in neighborhood “missional” activities, and there seems to be a lack of interest even in helping the homeless that spend time specifically at your church. Do you think this demonstrates a disconnect between programs (such as house churches) bringing people into the local church congregation and yet failing to introduce interest in spiritual acts of service? That is, do you think the programs designed to encourage church growth are bringing only superficial growth? If not, why is it that needs of people are going so unnoticed by the congregation? A church of 30 or 40 people may find it difficult to address these issues, but it seems that a church of 150-200 should have plenty of resources available.

      I commented before about the difficulty of developing a philosophy of local church activity in our age. Freeways and the internet have made the idea of “local” very questionable, and you noted that people can live 20 minutes away from the church building. I wonder if some strategy will emerge that will sort out this question of locality.

      • Hyukwoo shin said

        It is a challenge for an immigrant church to be inclusive. I am not sure about the exact reason.I am cautious to speculate and to make any judgement. However, I can tell you my personal opinion. There is no doubt that God’s imagination work in his people and many times they need courage to overcome their fears.
        If it bothers you what I wrote, please pray for us.

    • Ciprian Boitor said

      It sounds like your pastor worked hard to accomodate, listen to and engage the various members of your church. Thank you for that example of how to provide an adaptive holding environment. The term reminds my of psychological theory in which the therapist needs to be able to hold the anxiety, anger and other negative emotions of the client and help them work through that. Branson stated that it is important to be able to attune to the level of stress and lower or heighten it as need. It is also important that the leader be able to be comfortable with these strong emotions. Sounds like your pastor was able to do that. Analyzing the example that you gave from the perspective of power, it seems that the pastor worked hard to provide space for the elderly to share their stories. They could have been easily overlooked in light of the success that the house-church movement seemed to be experiencing, but the pastor was very careful to provide options that would work with the needs of the elderly.
      In terms of being responseive to the needs of the local community, I can recall a telling example from my own church history. One Sunday Morning a few years ago there was a homeless person who had stationed himself outside of the church entrance and was asking people for money. Most people ignored him and some even told him to leave. When the worship time ended, that homeless person walked into the church and walked up to the pulpit. It was our youth-pastor who had disguised himself as a homeless person! The apathetic response of the church was a telling sign of our missional interest and willingness to engage in the local ministry.

      • Hyukwoo shin said

        Thanks for the disguised youth pastor story. It was funny. We share a similar background of immigrant churches who are sometimes more exclusive than inclusive. It is an adaptive challenge for us, right?
        I am wondering you if your church makes any progress in the shift to a missional church. I would like to listen to your experience and learn from it.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      This is great interaction. (1) One comment on the pastors approach: his original program shift was a technical fix – a new top-down structure. I probably created more alienation than needed. His work of listening to others, after resistance, and trying an adjustment is still largely technical — tho a good shift. A key characteristic of adaptive challenges is that they require that we, as people, are changed as we move into the new experiment. Perhaps this was true in this situation. (2) More obviously, that is what is needed if the church is to engage God’s love for the world where they worship. (3) With immigrant churches, as we note in the book, there are key generational and language issues that are relevant to change and leadership.

  5. Jason Sisk said

    Chapter 10 challenges us to think of church leadership in new ways. In modernity leadership focused on control and predictability. Churches were built and maintained through well-established systems. When the postmodern worldview began to replace the modern worldview, these systems and leadership styles no longer worked. In the case study explored in this chapter, the church’s attendance dropped below 80. The pastor–ready for retirement and no doubt trained in the modern way of leading churches–was not equipped to help the church be the voice of Jesus Christ in our new context.

    Interpretive, relational and implemental leadership now must include teamwork and cooperation. Church members, visitors and those in the community at large are skeptical of a leader who has control of everything. Ramón included others in his effort to learn about the community surrounding the church. This showed others that he was vulnerable and that he valued the gifts and skills of others in the congregation. These are the kinds of leadership skills that are relevant in our postmodern context. The desire to meet in a variety of places, including the homes of congregants, shows that he was willing to go outside of his comfort zone, the church, in order to help the church rediscover its voice for Jesus.

    The current pastor at our church has faced a tremendous adaptive challenge. When our sanctuary was being rebuilt and we held worship in our fellowship hall, we weren’t focused on growing our church. We were already packed in there like sardines! We were still active in the community, but not as active as when we had more members and a sanctuary. When the new sanctuary was finally finished and we had a large space for people to served, we weren’t quite sure what the people in our community needed. Fortunately, she was vulnerable and asked for help from the church. She asked us to go to the local schools, colleges, shelters and senior centers to see what we could do to help. Although we thought our church was well known (it’s the oldest Protestant church on the Central Coast), we discovered that it wasn’t. People didn’t know about our congregation and that we wanted to help schools with their literacy goals, to mentor young college students, to provide time and goods to the local women’s and homeless shelters and to provide a space where seniors could meet for light exercise. We shared that as disciples of Jesus, we had common goals of nurturing life and peace in our community and invited everyone to our church. Some of those we invite visit the church. Some even become members. It’s only because our pastor realized that she needed to lead differently–leading with an openness and a vulnerability that reflects Jesus in our postmodern context.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      Much to commend here. My main question would be about the difference between seeing a community as a site for our service (so “they” are objects of our labors) vis a vis our entering into the hospitality of others so we are the vulnerable strangers (rather than resourced providers of goods and services). I do think we need to serve – but I also believe it is in the humanness of meals and conversations and side-by-side work that power differences can be set aside and the HS has more room to work. (I expect that some of that was happening.)

    • I have a couple observations about your post. First, I completely agree that empowering the people within your congregation are the kinds of leadership skills that are relevant in our postmodern context. This is my style of leadership and I have seen nothing but success with my volunteer staff with this style. People that feel that they are a part of something bigger always respond better and in this postmodern context, it works really well. So I do agree with your observation there, but was also wondering how you are incorporating this style of leadership at your church that has gone through many changes. Lastly, during your transitions of worship centers, you mentioned you stop trying to grow and serve in your community. I completely understand this, simply because there was no room to grow, but why did you stop serving the community as much. I only ask because it seems as if that was intentional. Can you take me through that set of decisions?

  6. Justin Beck said

    The church plant that I have been apart of for the past two years has lived in the adaptive challenges more than the technical challenges. We do experience technical challenges, but the majority of our challenges have existed in the adaptive realm and that has a lot to do with the fact that we are a church plant, still trying to figure out what it means to be a church in North East Los Angeles. Our future is very murky. We have set a vision and a mission for what we want our church to be, but we have no idea how that will play out over the next week, month, or year. Also, the road that we are traveling is unfamiliar in our given context. We are a church plant out of the Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church is very new to the church planting world. They are still trying to discern what church planting looks like in the Los Angeles area. Therefore, our church has had a steep learning curve. We are trying to learn about the community we are immersed in, while at the same time learn what it means to plant a church. Our community has learned many new things, but we still have so much to learn. Also, many things are unfamiliar to us. The people of the community have an idea what church should be, but few people have experience in doing church in our given context. This unfamiliarity leads to people being put into leadership positions where they don’t have a lot of experience. For example, five out of our six elders are below the age of 31. This could be viewed as refreshing, but at the same time the inexperience of our elder board means that we are unfamiliar with how certain things work in the church. We are doing a lot of learning as we go. Finally, we don’t have a lot of identifiable resources. Right now we are receiving support from the Presbytery and another Presbyterian Church, but those funds will be done at the end of this year. So we have no idea where our financial resources are going to come from at the end of the year. Therefore, we have to do a lot of trusting and believing that God will provide. I am not sure our church wants to continue to live in the adaptive challenges, but we would like to find a balance between adaptive and technical.

    The model of transforming an organization was helpful in my own understanding of what it means to lead people through change. The first two steps were extremely insightful for me. I often try to jump to the evaluation part before helping people become aware and understand the problem. I find myself becoming aware of the problem and then I understand the problem, then I try to make people evaluate the problem with me, because I believe they should already be aware of the problem and understand the problem. The model helped show me that we need to help people become aware of the problem, which in turn leads to them having an understanding of the problem. Once these two things have been accomplished, then we can evaluate the problem. This model will be very beneficial in our church plant as we continue to learn and develop as a church community.

    • Jason Sisk said

      Justin, has your church reached out to Presbyterians from more diverse backgrounds? You mentioned that 5 out of the 6 elders were under the age of 31. Maybe someone who is not as new in the role might have some suggestions for how your church could meet these adaptive challenges? Also, are all of the elders Caucasian? Sometimes when there is a lack of diversity everyone thinks too similarly. There are rarely ideas that someone else hasn’t already thought of. You mentioned one problem that I believe is very prominent in Caucasians in this age group: the desire to solve problems before we get a good understanding of the situation. We’re taught that acting quickly and decisively is a virtue and it is–sometimes. Sometimes taking the extra time to dig deeper and really analyze a problem is a virtue.

  7. Renee Rector said

    My personal experience interacting with church leadership has caused me to believe that many leaders are afraid of adaptive challenges. As has been mentioned, today’s society thrives on being able to control the outcomes. With adaptive changes you are wading into a murky unknown. Those raised with a modernity mindset tend to think that God must be a logical and predictable God and therefore anything that is done in His name must be logical and predictable. In one specific instance, I expressed a felt need to instigate a specific ministry that would be somewhat out of the ordinary, but might be a good way to experiment with new outreach tools. I was shut down because it was not practical and no one would be interested in something of that nature. Even in my pursuit of this particular degree I have faced a lot of ridicule. Theology and the Arts does not seem like a practical degree. I am almost finished and do not see that I will likely be using the degree in the extremely near future. However, I like the possibility that I will be surprised by the doors that may open up. I am looking forward to finding a place that will be interested in exploring and experimenting. Learning about a new environment and experiences is something that I look forward to. I think today’s younger generation is more quick to find this type of adventure appealing. We recognize that Abraham was called out to the Promised Land and went despite not knowing where he was going. I think because we are open to possibilities God may be ready to use this generation in a great and mighty way.

    • Carl Amouzou said

      I think you are correct in saying that many leaders are afraid of adaptive challenges. The question for me becomes how do we try to initiate the embracing of these challenges when the senior leading is apprehensive? I think one of the reasons that church planting has pretty much become the modus operandi for emerging leaders who want to implement change and embrace challenges is because they are frustrated by leaders who will not step up to the plate. Many times even within the fold of your existing church you just have to go for it, initiate these out of the ordinary ministry endeavors on your own. If it fails the church itself took no risk, but if it succeeds it is likely that the church would adopt the initiative.

      • You are exactly right. This is the time for change. From Obama being the first black president to the change that is happening all over the Middle East, it has become apparent to Americans today that the world is much larger, and closer to home than once perceived. the aliens who attacked us during 9/11 have had so much influence that they got someone with the same name as the leader of the attackers in office. They are taking over, these issues must be addressed. It may seem in some instances that there has been a wave of cultural awareness, that has occurred within the United States since the election of Barack Obama. In media, more representatives of other cultures are seen, in school, we are even given side lines about the history, and events of other cultures and countries. In seminary, the church is beginning t o cater to these different communities finally recognizing the larger church community is outside of the United States and comprised of races of people other the Anglo-Saxon Americans. It is a great time. Because finally we have the freedom to express our viewpoint of the Bible and it is recognized and desired by much of the growing church community. Everybody wants to integrate and hear the other side of the story. It is wonderful, but scary too, because with my side of the story coming out I risk being different than the norm, realizing that my story is not the same as the rest of Euro-American society but very similar to those of African Americans, and other cultures that represent the church around the world. People from other nations seem to have similar stories too. Stories of immigration,1st and 2nd generationers, or escaping the hardships of life in their home country by the grace of God through invites by the church. It is time that we give God the glory, and let the entire world know that he is the God of all peoples, white, black, male, female, American, and Egyptian, and that the freedom of a life in Christ can be had simply by telling ones own story and recognizing via relational comparison within a Biblical context that this freedom has been won by the life of Christ. Amen

    • Pisey Sok said

      Your reflection on leadership not wanting to embrace adaptive challenges is in all to familiar experience. With prediction, control, and outcomes being the hallmark of many “purpose” driven churches, it is difficult to see adaptive challenges as an opportunity rather than a threat. In general, we all don’t like the feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty, I know that in my own life I facing adaptive challenges right now on personal level. Not knowing where things are heading, or how I will use my seminary training, or I how I will face the reality that loans need to be paid. These are but a microcosm of adaptive changes that churches encounter. The issues of vision, purpose, and scarcity are really threats to church community. Perhaps these are also opportunities to remind ourselves that our trust is not in capitalism or corporations, but in the God who tells us that he is enough and our portion. I do understand the threat of adaptive challenges because I sense it in my own life at times, but I always find hope knowing that Jesus lived a life that was a constant adaptive challenge, and yet he stayed connected to the Source of his vision, purpose, and provision, namely his Heavenly Father.

  8. Ian B. said

    After reading the Branson/Martinez material, I began to consider how this system for approaching adaptive change fits with other challenges relating to diversity. While the scope of this book focuses on ethnic diversity and cultural boundary crossing, I wonder how this framework applies to issues of generational and socioeconomic diversity. These issues are often left out of the current discussion of diversity, while ethnic diversity takes center stage.

    Since I have never legitimately been part of a truly multiethnic church or a community seriously working to cross cultural boundaries, most of the adaptive changes I have seen have been issues of generational diversity. I worshiped at a Presbyterian church while it began and implemented a plan to shift from traditional worship to a contemporary style that targeted the local community which was becoming increasingly younger. This transition was truly adaptive because the church had never experienced contemporary worship music in its Presbyterian heritage or its local experience. The church leadership did not have the immediate resources to affect such a change.

    The church could have changed more smoothly if it had used the helpful conceptual steps identified in this chapter. Indeed, I think that many churches fail to do interpretive and relational work before engaging in implementation of new projects. In the five stages of organizational development borrowed from Roxburgh, I have seen many churches engage “experiments” and “commitment” without undertaking the first three stages of “awareness”, “understanding” and “evaluation”. My church developed a careful and thoughtful plan to slowly introduce contemporary music into worship services by first scheduling a contemporary evening service, and then slowly introducing this music into the major Sunday morning services. The change was gradual, but it did not begin with conversation about the congregation’s experience of worship and hopes for the future. It did not interpret the biblical or cultural context of the church, it did not address people’s biases and worship traditions, and it did not address concerns or the discomfort of people coping with the changing model for Sunday worship. The overall transition was not a failure, but it could have used a foundation in the conceptual work suggested in the Branson/Martinez chapter.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      From this description, you had an adaptive challenge (much bigger that worship music) and a technical approach was used (a program driven by the top). We write that a major job of leaders is to identify adaptive challenges — so the undone work here is to think again about what the real adaptive challenge it. Remember that the goal is not clear and that the leaders and participants will need to be changed for the challenge to be addressed.

  9. Matt Wilson said

    Through out my ministry experience, I have not seen adaptive leadership modeled very well. It seems as if each pastor tends to micro manage his own imported church model. One of the most encouraging messages Branson puts forth is encouraging pastors to delegate effectively to church members. It seems as if many pastors bring in a specific type of church model without doing the grass roots work in the specific congregational setting. Further, their is a fear that keeps the ecclesial power in the hands of the pastor. I was very encouraged by Branson’s idea of protecting the leadership voices from below. Church is truly transformational when congregants own the transitional conversation. I have been learning this in my current position. The pastor I work for and I are in the midst of conversing about a 20s/30s ministry. I have been encourage by my pastor to always involve the voices of those you are ministering to. Without those voices, the ministry is an epiphenomenon to the lives of those who we serve. Instead, if those we serve have the leading voices in the conversation, the ministry that is created will be able to genuinely serve the community around those voices.

    Another element of ch. 10 that I found especially profound was the necessity of time. Branson writes, “In a society where monthly reports and quick fixes are expected, the complex and slower work of transformation will be discouraging for many”(230). Transformation is a time engaging and redeeming work. If we seek such time “senselessness” we may be able to see the work of God in a much more open way.

    • Ian B. said

      I have also seen these problems come up in churches I have attended. While we may all agree that delegating and protecting the “leadership voices from below” is important, it is certainly refreshing to hear because many leaders seem keen to avoid distributing power. I wonder if this is a result of the “banking” model of education where experts are the primary actors in Christian education and “deposit” their knowledge into a receptive congregation. An elitist perspective would elevate only the most educated leaders to positions of power. On the other hand, I think many leaders do not encourage leadership from below simply because they are afraid others will do poor work, or because they see their own ideas as superior. The same goes with pastors who install foreign church models.

    • Justin Beck said

      I find myself getting caught up in being discouraged by the slow transformation process and wanting to see quick results. I too was encouraged by Branson in the fact that transformation takes time and energy. The model we were given in class a few weeks ago dealing with the concept of multiple conversions and how each of us goes through a variety of conversions as we walk with Christ. This model helped with my understanding of transformation. People are transformed by Christ, but the transformation does not always occur instantly. The process can take a long time and through the process people will often have multiple conversion experiences. God is constantly transforming us into the people he created us to be and this work is never done. Therefore, we need to be willing to engage in the difficult and challenging process of transformation in our own lives and in the lives of people we are encountering.

    • Renee Rector said

      One of the themes that seems to be standing out to me a lot in this course is the concept of time. We are a very busy society and spread too thin in many occasions. I think the concept of leadership being willing to delegate may help this to some extent, but I think we also need to reevaluate our priorities. If we truly desire to see these changes take place we need to not only expect the results to take time, but we also need to be willing to make the investment. I am finally at a place that I realize that I have to do this in my own life. I am ready to put down my roots, stake my claim, and dedicate myself to one specific place and purpose. This goes against the grain of society’s moblie work force that has been mentioned a lot in this class, but I think it is central to being effective. This is especially true if the goal is to engage the ‘other’ in terms of ethnic diversity. The challenges for me in learning about a new culture and way of life are immense, but one that I am eager to embrace and look forward to finding those who are willing to join me on this mission.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      I believe a key to your discussion about the 20s/30s ministry is how you frame the challenge. If you begin with a specific goal of a new 20/30s group then you are approaching it as a technical challenge –you know the answer/goal. Instead, if you frame it as an adaptive challenge – “our congregation has few young adults even though our context, families, and associates have people in their 20s/30s” then you admit you do not know what goal God has and you can avoid a programmatic fix.

  10. Carl Amouzou said

    Reading about navigating a church through ethnic diversity challenges is a reality that many churches need to address. Coming from a church in Hawaii where the culture itself is extremely ethnically diverse. There is no reality besides being a multi-ethnic and multicultural church. So at times some of the actions taken to foster ethnic and cultural diversity seem forced, surface, and artificial resulting in members who will be bothered by the “strange smells” When people from the mainland America come to Hawaii to live for the first time the culture can seem slightly jarring, but I am yet to meet a person who after a couple of months does not feel at home and a part of the “Island life”. There is no elaborate programs, no plan of diversity, no plan of assimilation, just inclusion. Inviting people to just be part of what is going on. There are so many cultures mixed together to create a new culture, people are added to the mix and as they become part of the community so do their cultural traits. Prof. Soong-Chan Rah was a guest lecturer at Pacific Rim Christian College, my alma mater, and he used the metaphor of a “Plate Lunch,” which in Hawaii is a common meal that locals eat. A plate lunch is a hodgepodge mix of foods from various cultures. You have kimchee, mac salad, sushi, fried chicken, kalbi beef, spam, rice, haupia, chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon or pork, so on and so on, you have all these different foods from different cultures mixed together forming a new culture, a “plate lunch” culture. No culture lobbied for supremacy, no culture asked to be included, no culture vied to have another excluded. The plate lunch came in existence because you had people from various cultures in close proximity, with the common agenda of eating good food. Sometimes I can’t help if the Church is supposed to be like the Hawaiian Plate lunch, brilliantly representing various cultures for the benefit of everyone, but not by coercion or even by design, but rather just allowing people space to come together with the common agenda of loving others.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      Carl, how do you see affinities and exclusion displayed in Hawaii? How is power misused? In what ways are churches ingrown? What adaptive challenges do you see?

  11. Hyukwoo shin said

    Carl, thanks for your very interesting perspective. I love the concept of all-inclusive Hawaiian Plate lunch where different food from different culture come together to form a new culture. As you mentioned, it easily allows people to come together and experience each other culture. We had a potluck dinner once in while when I was in graduate school. My advisor would invite all his international students to his home and asked them bring a dish. It was really a fun time to relax from research and ease some tension from being together all the time in lab. When I lived in Germany a long time ago, my family had German friends who would eat Kalbi beef and even Kimchii together with us. We really appreciated that they would eat Korean food! The meals brought the two families really close together and we went together on ski vacations.
    There is no doubt that meals at church are important. It could be fellowship meals after service or the communion (the Eucharist) during service. I remember that Dr. Branson’s church in Oakland had the Eucharist every Sunday. My current church in San Diego has communion more frequently now, once a month during our first week joint worship when we have service only once instead of twice. Our senior pastor decided to do this after the church struggled with the new ministry system. It was one of his ideas to unify the divided church and I believe it worked.

  12. In Chapter 10, Branson/Martinez challenge us in leadership to think of new ways of doing things. We must be able to adapt to our environment of ministry and take people to places they have never seen before.

    One of the best examples I can think of is my close friend that is a Senior Pastor in the Orange County. His name is Tony. He is a very dynamic leader that is always taking his congregation to new heights. He is never afraid of change and is always looking to do something he has never done before to go where he has never been. This is a key concept in adaptive leadership. Think about it. If you always do the same things, you will always get the same results. Tony understands this greatly and is always doing new and dynamic things. I would define him as a passionate world changer because he really thinks he can change this whole world for Christ.

    He just recently planted a church in the Orange County. When you think of a church in Orange County, you would typically think of building your church around middle-upper class families. Let’s just say Tony did not do it this way. He has started the church around young adults and the Orange County Rescue Mission. He is reaching out this lost and broken in a community where everyone is supposed to have it all together. I am very proud as he has very difficult challenges everyday, but he is doing something in Orange County very few churches are doing. Praise God for that.

    Now while Tony is doing something few are doing, Tony is a great leader for another reason. In Chapter 10 in the Branson/Martinez book, it is mentioned on page 216 that “pastors need to observe and interpret what is happening.” This is key to the success of Tony’s church and any other Pastor that is leading people. You must always have the capability to identify what is going on around you so you can respond and react. So in adaptive leadership, when things, people, and circumstances are always changing, you must be able to observe and interpret. That is key to adaptive leadership.

  13. Chapter 10:Leading Change

    Chapter 10 of Mark Lau Branson’s book, Churches, Cultures & Leadership discusses the necessities of leading a church of a mainly singular cultural and racial make up to a more multi-cultural makeup using three key tools; Interpretive, Relational, and Implemental leadership frameworks.

    The Interpretive, relational, and implemental leadership frameworks make up a triad of leadership devices used to integrate a church in today’s context and diverse cultural settings, including the educational institution, the church, the community neighborhood, and even the local farmers market.

    Interpretive leadership shapes a leadership team and congregation in interpreting text and contexts in light of God’s responsibility imparted to us as Christians. (212) Relational leadership is more focused upon the human condition and the reconciliation of cultures through the gospel via love from the church. (212) While Implemental leadership is a guide for reform, structure and activities that bring the church more in line to what it is called to do according to the gospel in relation to other cultures. (212)

    All three of these leadership frameworks work together in harmony to create change and cultural awareness amongst the church. One framework cannot operate without the other two in order for a progressive outcome to occur.

    In addition, Practical Theology steps must be followed by the church congregation and leaders within the cultural context to ensure the change occurs.

    These steps are:
    1. Name and describe your current praxis
    2. Analyze your praxis and context using resources of your culture to understand influences and consequences
    3. Study and reflect on Scripture, theology and Christian history concerning your praxis and analysis
    4. Recall and discuss stories from your church and your own lives related to your praxis
    5. Discern and shape your new praxis through imagination, prayer, experiments and commitments. (215)
    An example church of a mainly Euro-American congregation advancing to a more culturally inclusive church with a Hispanic pastor is given as an example of a church using this leadership triad to initiate change, education, understanding and awareness of the change in their church and neighborhood community. Cultural neighborhood demographics, desires and needs of congregation members within a culturally changing community, likes and dislikes of different congregation members of a newly introduced culture within the church, and the conflicts as well as embracing that arises when a new culture is introduced into a community are all examples of the types of change explored and experiences had by congregation members seeking such a venture of multicultural awareness and inclusiveness.
    Examples of the work of leaders of the church are also explored in each section describing the different triad tools that must be practiced by church leaders including the pastor to ensure the transition from a single ethnic demographic of believers to a multi-ethnic demographic of believers is prevalent.
    Examples of these praxis tools are: Encourage opportunities to be in homes of different congregation members, ask about personal, church and family stories and traditions, recognize change within the generations and demographics within the church and neighborhood, relate Bible stories and teachings such as Acts to stories of the church and a transforming neighborhood community, encourage expression and discussion of change, notice likes and dislikes, appreciations and intolerance, make new relationships, build trust in the community through sharing, caring, sympathy and empathy of the life experience of others and how the gospel may be viewed differently, hear the unheard especially if they speak a different language, learn from the differences in cultures, and encourage the participation of all church and community members in personal and group reflection exercises that express true feelings of the change in the church and the world around them. (211-222)
    All these tools of Interpretive, relational, and implemental leadership help guide the church to a new awareness of the church community and the changing world around them not only in cultural context but Biblical as well. It assists the church and the community with a goal that is less adaptive and more technical and clear in what the change is. It makes a statement by the church in light of a cultural changing church community of “We are who we need to be,” versus “We need to become different.” (223)

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