«BAKKE GRADUATE UNIVERSITY TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF LEADERSHIP COMMUNITIES: ASSESSING LEADERSHIP NETWORK’S EFFECTIVENESS IN ACCELERATING THE ...»
John Wesley: Letter to William Wilberforce; available from http://gbgmumc.org/umw/wesley/wilber.stm; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.
The Industrial Age The spiritual awakenings of 1726-1825 had not just spiritual but social implications as well. David Bosch writes, “It was those touched by the Awakenings who were moved to compassion by the plight of people exposed to the degrading conditions in slums and prisons, in coal-mining districts, on the American frontier, in West Indian plantations and elsewhere.”52 Historian Thomas Cahill captures what “awakening” means when he writes, When in the late seventeenth century George Fox and his fellow Quakers began to read the gospels, Acts, and the letters of Paul, it seemed to them as if no one had ever read them before, for they rediscovered there the blueprint for Christianity as the radical ‘society of friends’ it had once been and the theological courage to oppose slavery, prisons, capital punishment, war, and even unholy union of church and state.53 In 1797 Catholic parishioners met and organized an orphanage for children whose parents had died following an outbreak of yellow fever. By the mid-1830s, Bishop John Dubois in New York ordered that all church collections on Christmas day should go for the care of orphans. Within a few years all collections on Easter Sunday went towards that same purpose. “These collections were the forerunners of the Campaign for Human Development, which annually distributes some $50 million to community-based social services that address poverty and empowerment.”54 As in the case of the Campaign for Human Development, some great enterprises have humble beginnings. In 1884, in addition to many social ministries of Temple Baptist Church, “Russell Conwell from Temple Baptist Church established a night school for
working people so that those from a lower economic status could have an opportunity to advance their social and occupational standing in society. Conwell’s night school was to become Temple University....”55 With the industrial age in full swing, millions of immigrants flocked to America’s shores and settled in her bourgeoning cities, but this growth was not without problems.
“The massive crowding illnesses, and social problems created by the influx of largely unskilled, illiterate, foreign-speaking individuals was unparalleled in our history. In New York City, two-thirds of the population lived in tenements in 1890….”56 Immigration was also seen by the church as an invitation for ministry. This ministry often took the form of settlement houses where churches “created, financed and staffed outreach programs to the most marginalized inhabitants of the inner cities.
They formed Bible classes, kindergartens, industrial schools, clubs, loan banks, job bureaus, dispensaries, reading rooms and other programs that laid the groundwork for later social reforms.”57 The church was reinventing itself to meet the needs of immigrants. Their work was more than impressive.
These churches viewed themselves as “Institutions” that ministered seven days a week to the physical and spiritual wants of all the people within their reach. [They] sponsored clinics, free Saturday night concerts, self-supporting restaurants and lodging houses, wood wards for the unemployed, “fresh air work” for women and children, and … there was a marked emphasis on practical education. Institutional churches sponsored libraries and literary societies and carried on kindergartens, trade schools, and community colleges.58 In The Black Church in the African American Experience, the authors C. Eric
has been the one stable social unit for African-Americans. It has been the “enduring institution” of the black community—the one place where blacks have had unfettered
opportunities for leadership development. Quoting a representative pastor, they write:
The church has many critics but no rivals in what it has meant in the life of the people—in saving and developing them. Without the Black Church, black leadership and black organization would hardly have developed. Especially as a positive influence in the black experience, black consciousness would have been devoid of real hope and black life would have been completely dehumanized. The Black Church is the biggest happening in the black experience in the United States of America.59 The authors propose that it is the black church that nurtured the slaves and was the cradle and ideological seedbed for those who fought for the salvation and liberation of black Americans. Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and nearly all black legislators have come from the black church.
The Great Reversal There was also a counterweight to this externally focused ministry and the social good it was accomplishing. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the eschatological teaching of premillennialism became the prominent popular theology of the day. One tenant of premillennialism is the world becoming progressively worse before Christ intervenes with his personal and physical return. An aberration of this teaching was that any effort Christians spent trying to make this world a better place was to hinder and delay the return of Jesus Christ. It was this attitude that exempted these believers from engaging in the ills and hurts of the nation. The prominent nineteenth century evangelist D.L. Moody exemplifies this attitude with his repeated refrain--"I look upon this world as
a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.'"60 The Christian's main concern then, was not the repair of a wrecked world but the rescue of ruined souls—getting individuals off the sinking vessel of this world and into the lifeboat of salvation. The Christian mandates of love and mercy were slowly abandoned in favor of a verbal message addressing only individual salvation. The effect for a multitude of churches was devastating. David Bosch writes “[B]y the 1920s the ‘great reversal’ had been completed; the evangelicals’ interest in social concerns, had been obliterated.”61 Fortunately all churches did not buy into this way of thinking. Through the work of researchers like Ram Cnaan, one can suppose that the DNA of the early church has been transmitted down through the centuries to the church today. He writes, One way to understand congregational involvement in social and community services provision is to imagine the United States without congregations. Without congregations, one-third of the children now in day care centers would have no place to go. Most scout troops and twelve-step groups would have no meting place. Many food cupboards, soup kitchens and homeless shelters would disappear, leaving a large number of people hungry and on the streets. New immigrants and refugees would lose their strongest supporters and their anchor as they move into mainstream American life. Numerous old and sick people would be neglected, and the waiting list for institutionalized care would double. The list goes on and on, underscoring the important fact that the absence of congregations in the United States would create a significant social void, along with the loss of the religious, spiritual, and social support provided by congregations.62
As mentioned in chapter one, LCs were started by LN in 2003 in response to the question, “How can we better connect innovators to multiply their impact for the kingdom?” Although LN had hosted dozens of events, gatherings, briefings, and conferences, ministry leaders deemed these methods alone to be insufficient for the diffusion of information and practice that would transform the church. Working in consultation and cooperation with an independent consulting and facilitation company called WildWorks, based in Dallas Texas, a meeting format was designed and subsequently iterated to its current form. The overall format design is based on a combination of proven adult-learning methodologies, designed not just to be informational but also to be transformational. These process elements as well as the transformational elements of the LCs are outlined briefly below.
Well-defined Purpose The purpose of the EFCLC is to identify, connect, and resource church leaders who are either leading externally focused churches or want to move external focus from a ministry tactic to an operational strategy. The desire to grow exponentially and not merely incrementally is the first qualification for acceptance into an LC. Writing in their book Transformational Leadership: Creating Organizations of Meaning, Stephen Hacker and Tammy Roberts note that “Transformation is embarked upon for the single reason of improving results—and doing so drastically. Transformation of the leader and the organization is a tough undertaking. It requires a remaking of individual skill sets and radical change within an organization.”63 Every church team entered the process with the
expectancy of change and growth. The EFCLC addresses both the technical and adaptive challenges associated with externally focused churches.
It is useful to note the designated name of these communities. They are “Leadership Communities” to be differentiated from “Learning Communities.” Although both types of communities involve the exchange of ideas and perhaps practices, LCs will succeed only if and when the participating teams are well-led in accomplishing results.
As good as the gatherings are the real work gets done between the gatherings. These gatherings are not merely a time for idea exchange. It is action that unifies and creates a true LC. Eric Hoffer, in his seminal work on social movements, The True Believer— Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, addresses the relationship between unity
and action when he writes:
Action is a unifier. There is less individual distinctness in the genuine man of action—the builder, soldier, sportsman and even the scientist—than in the thinker or in one whose creativeness flows from communion with the self…. Those who came to this country to act (to make money) were more quickly and thoroughly Americanized than those who came to realize some lofty ideal. The former felt an immediate kinship with the millions absorbed in the same pursuit. It was as if they were joining a brotherhood…. Men of thought seldom work well together whereas between men of action there is usually an easy camaraderie. Teamwork is rare in intellectual or artistic undertakings but common and almost indispensable among men of action. The cry ‘Go, let us build us a city, and a tower’ is always a call for united action.64 Facilitation and Meeting Design Each gathering is designed by the LC director (the author) who works with an outside facilitator who actually facilitates the gathering. The director is freed from the pressure of “running a meeting” to encourage, coach, and help individuals and teams in the process. “The job of the facilitator is not to teach but to create an ‘atmosphere Eric Hoffer, The True Believer—Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, (New York: Harper Collins, 1989), 120.
wherein the [members] can learn for and from themselves, to develop confidence in themselves, to reflect and develop new ideas.’”65 Team Leaders LN asked that each church team be comprised of a designated team leader and two other “permanent” team members. To this permanent team each church could bring an additional two members to each gathering. Of the thirty-three church teams, twentyseven were led by males, and seven were led by females. Although the male / female leadership gap is wide, it is certainly not a reflection of transformational abilities of women. Transformational leadership, where other’s interests are valued and affirmed, is a great leadership style for women. James McGregor Burns writes, “The male bias is reflected in the false conception of leadership as mere command or control. As leadership comes properly to be seen as a process of leaders engaging and mobilizing the human needs and aspirations of followers, women will be more readily recognized as leaders and men will change their own leadership styles.”66 Open Space Technology In many ways the processes used during the LC gatherings are generational iterations of Open Space Technology (OST). OST is a meeting methodology that “enables groups of any size to address complex, important issues and achieve meaningful results quickly. It is at its best where more traditional meeting formats fail: when there is A. Lawler, The Components of Action Learning. In M. Pedler (Ed.), Action Learning in Practice (2nded.), (Aldershot, England: Gower, 1991), 256; quoted in Marquardt, 38.
Burns, Leadership, 50.
conflict, complexity, diversity of thought or people, and short decision times.”67 LN used many of the best features of OST including the use of a facilitator to explain and guide the process. Participants then “host their own discussion groups. Discussions are held in designated areas or separate rooms known as 'breakout spaces'…. Each group records the conversations in a form which can be used to distribute or broadcast the proceedings of the meeting (in hard copy, blog, podcast, video, etc).”68 OST proved to be one of the best and most valued features of LC gatherings.