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Flourishing Update - October 24, 2019

Current Musings

I’ve been pondering whether or not George Bernard Shaw was overstating things when he said, “those who cannot change their minds can not change anything.” I recall a season in my high school teaching days when I had a poster in one of my classroom walls that stated something like, “our minds, like parachutes – are much more useful when open.” Are congregational leaders (clergy and laypersons) who are open-minded more likely to be trusted, resilient, self and other-aware, and dynamic in their service to the cause to which they are called. Is it true that innovative and effective leaders do not settle for the status quo; but, rather, understand the Zeigarnick Effect in their practice. [The 90 year old story behind Bluma Zeigarnick’s insights are interesting: Video 1, Video 2]

The Zeigarnick Effect is an indicator of a leader’s capacity to stay open to possibilities, to engage with new ideas, to work around obstacles, and to pick up on opportunities right up to the last moment. High Zeigarnick leaders are full of warranted hope. When Zeigarnick is zero, the leader has a real urge to get things over with, follow the schedule and ignore any synchronicity, synergy, symbiosis, and serendipity within their sphere of experience and influence. This zero Zeigarnick disposition may ignore the possibility of supernatural intervention, the whispers of the Spirit or the voices of inconvenient suggestions. The higher the stress the less adaptable congregational leaders can be without Zeigarnick. Under conditions of fatigue, unrelenting uphill pushing (Sisyphus Syndrome) and disappointing responses, we tend to stay with the familiar, retreat to the uninspiring and settle for sentimental nostalgia or attachments of the past. We can do so in a way that ceases to pay attention to our moral and prophet imaginations, to our curiosities, to foreign insights through other peoples’ ways of knowing and doing. I am reminded here of a couple of saying that combine to suggest that we should both love our enemies and listen to them because they are partly right.

Comfortability, orthodoxy, complacency, and mediocrity are the offspring of zero Zeigarnick; but those with higher levels of Zeigarnick “run to the fire” and they engage others in their quest for creativity, they foster experimentation and make space for audaciousness and daring. Higher levels of opportunity-sensing produces resilience and transformation, even if this comes with risks and possibility of failure or need for faith (Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Philippians 2:12 come to mind). Innovating congregational leaders of leaders motivate and animate others to move off their zero Zeigarnick, with adaptive confidence by breathing new life into unfinished and worthwhile tasks. In the contexts of enormous challenges, we need to be well-anchored but open and adaptive to new possibilities that may appear to be outside the box to ourselves and other people.


Size Shouldn’t Matter: Canadian Research Reveals

Lack of Mission Clarity in Small Churches

Heather Card is the President of Five Smooth Stones Consulting. She is currently completing a professional doctorate in Practical Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario

As a research-practitioner in the Canadian Christian community, I have rewarding opportunities to assist churches large and small in evaluating the overall impact of their ministries. Organizational evaluation, the practice of considering how well a ministry is accomplishing its mission, is a topic I have been researching and thinking about intensely for the past three years. How do church leaders in Canadian Protestant churches evaluate their success? What theological and biblical moorings inform this process? I am convinced that clarity of mission is of paramount importance in this evaluative process.

In simple terms, mission is the central thing that must be pursued. A church must be exceptionally clear about why it exists and what it is trying to accomplish. If the church is unclear or divided about its purpose, it will be difficult to decide how to accomplish the desired end and to discern whether or not it has been successful in moving toward that end. Moreover, once a clear mission is defined, church leaders must be convinced that the mission is worth advancing and that they are willing to devote all available resources toward seeing that mission accomplished, prioritizing fulfillment of that particular mission over doing other worthwhile things.

If mission is so crucial, how are Canadian churches faring? In the fall of 2018, I conducted an online research survey about ministry evaluation with 512 lead pastors and church board members (elders, deacons, session members, etc.) in Canadian Protestant churches. A variety of denominational affiliations were represented in the survey; however, Pentecostal (20 percent), Baptist (17 percent), and Presbyterian (15 percent) traditions were the largest groups.

One of the questions I asked participants was whether or not their congregation had a clear mission or purpose statement. Overall, 76 percent of participants reported that their congregation had a clear mission or purpose statement. Another 14 percent indicated that their church had a mission statement, but it was not clear. The remaining participants either did not have a mission or purpose statement (9 percent) or were not sure about its existence (1 percent).

It was particularly noteworthy that small churches were significantly less likely to have a clear mission statement (64%) than larger congregations (94%). In addition, smaller congregations were more likely to have a mission statement that was unclear (19%) or to have no mission statement at all (16%) compared to larger congregations, 3% and 1% respectively. This lack of missional clarity puts the small church at a significant disadvantage for accomplishing all that God has for that community of believers.

Clarity of mission essential whether our church is large or small because mission:

  • expresses our identity and purpose as the people of God both internally and externally,

  • keeps us anchored to God’s overarching plan for our communities when making decisions and allocating resources,

  • shapes the culture of our church community and ministries.

My point here is that developing a clear, biblical expression of mission is not a luxury reserved only for large congregations with an abundance of staff and resources. When it comes to defining the mission of a congregation with clarity, size definitely should not matter.


We’re Reading…


Rosabeth Moss Kanter

A favourite author of mine (Robert Quinn) has said that adaptive confidence is the marriage of confidence and humility. I’ve said that “confidence is have co-faith with God in oneself” and being adaptive is being open to learning all day and all life long. I’d like to commend Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End. The book has been around awhile (reminded of this when I recalled that Saskatoon native and Maple Leaf’s coach Mike Babcock’s story with Mighty Ducks is in the book). Full of wide-ranging stories from many sectors, Kanter is good story-teller. This is a Harvard professor’s exploration of the theories and practices of success, turn-arounds and breaking throughs. The book has promise for encouraging those of us who, from time to time, feel stuck.


Upcoming Opportunities

  • An Evening with Dr. Joel Thiessen in the Ottawa area, November 20, 2019 at 7:00 PM at Cedarview Alliance Church (2784 Cedarview Rd, Nepean, ON)- Join Dr. Thiessen as he shares the latest research on millennials in Canada. How are they similar/different than their parents and grandparents? Should we be encouraged or concerned? And what might this research mean for different areas of society moving forward? Click here to register.

  • The Canadian Council of Churches celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2019.To mark the event, they are hosting “CHRISTIANS TOGETHER IN CANADA TODAY” on October 26th—a cross-Canada live-streamed event in English

and French featuring prominent Canadian Christians in dialogue with one another and with you and your community. For more information click here.

  • YYChurch: Does Church Matter?- Ten speakers from church and non-church backgrounds have ten minutes to answer the question: Why church? Or, why not church? How is church relevant or irrelevant today? Speakers include Calgary blogger Mike Morrison and CBC Radio host David Gray, as well as leaders from United, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Evangelical churches in Alberta. Date: November 1; Click here to register.

  • The 2020 Pastor’s Conference in partnership with The Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University: Life Together: Discipleship in an Age of Distraction; Save the date for February 19, 2020.​

  • The New Leaf Project is a podcast that shares the stories of Canadian Christians who are instigating new things, innovating in our post-modern Canadian context, planting new churches and starting missional minded conversations, conversations, and communities here in Canadian soil. Click here:

  • Missed our latest newsletters?

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