Category Archives: leadership

Principles and Process

Working Towards the Ideal Congregation

NYNO is very much an idea as much as it is anything else. It’s an idea inspired by Scripture, by the situation that the Church and society finds itself in at this point in time in the UK.

Briefly, the idea is that full expressions of church can exist that recognize the needs of its older members and therefore places them at the centre of their congregations. We believe doing this can be good for every generation that participates in such a congregation. We hope as well that any church that lives in this way will be better equipped to witness to the world, living in a way that speaks against the separation of old and young and that points to the wisdom of Christ centred community in the present and the hope of the redemption of all things in the future.

This idea can be both inspiring and intimidating. Again and again, we have seen people respond with enthusiasm when we describe what we hope to do and why we are doing it. Equally, we have encountered uncertainty as to how such a ‘perfect’ idea could ever become a practical reality. How, for instance, could a church survive without a dedicated minister; where will the youth come from; is there enough teaching?

There are one hundred and one practical questions that are unresolved by the simple idea and most of these issues will need to be resolved in the unique location and community in which you hope to see a church grow.

And yet, we’re not worried and we don’t think you should be either. Church planting with NYNO will be a process. The ideal, diverse aged, autonomous congregation, a spiritual home for all involved, will not spring into life immediately. It will require patient leadership, that holds onto the ideals of NYNO while making one change at a time, at each stage inviting the congregation to participate. That leadership (a team, I would expect) will have to be stubbornly singled minded when it comes to the ideas, the principles of NYNO. At the same time, it will have to be gracious and patient, recognizing that people will take time to understand the what we are aiming for. It will also have to have faith, realizing that there will be problems that won’t have an immediate solution that needs to communicated gently to the congregation. Together we will have to pray our way forward, always holding onto the end goal believing that God has given us this, even while the path that leads there remains bewilderingly winding.

Thoughts for NYNO on ‘Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting’ (3)

The previous post hinted at one of the limitations (or liberations!) of emerging church work in the Church of Scotland: there are currently some finances available for salaried pioneering work, but this is not available for the long term. From what I understand, no one could really hope for more than three years.

In the previous posts we were still dwelling on the task of being a creative, participatory church (whatever that means) and the probable need for a curating leadership in that. At the same time, NYNO can’t be dependent on paid ministry in the long term.

There’s lots to be said about the status of emerging ministries with respect to the wider church (it’s an ongoing conversation, which needs to keep going), but as things stand, financially, any model of emerging church can’t sensibly be dependent on paid employment. NYNO is therefore working on the basis that the current paid project workers can’t make themselves indispensable as paid employees to any church they found. Our reasoning is that we want a NYNO congregation to be something that any church could set up. Therefore we can’t establish a model based on having paid employees.

All congregations will need leaders, it can hardly be avoided, but we need to be facilitators, resource givers rather than a primary source of spiritual care. We can lead NYNO congregations but in not in a way that they depend on our personal genius(!) or charisma. If someone else tries to create a NYNO congregation but concludes, ‘We couldn’t do it because we’re just not you’, then we will have failed.


Thoughts for NYNO on ‘Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting’ (2)

I’m still thinking about the Dranes’ Report for the Church of Scotland, and still dwelling on the preference for creative and reflective worship.

An interesting book is mentioned, Curating Worship by Johnny Baker. (We haven’t read it yet, we may well. It’s gone on the list.)

Just the very title and brief description raises some questions. Is the creative church just as much dependent on a professional, skilled, perhaps theologically literate leadership? Don’t misunderstand me, it would be great to have a church led by an artist or a curator. Is it feasibly reproducible, though, on the large scale? The alternative doesn’t sound appealing, a McDonaldized church with no space for the new, for the prophetic, creative or reflective, except as such gifts are possessed by the pastor.

We certainly want congregations where all can participate (although I don’t want to prejudge the full variety of what that participation might be) and understand that each other’s participation matters. We don’t want congregations where, essentially, older people receive from willing younger volunteers. All can give.

So, it would seem we have a circle to square: diverse participation of all probably will require coordination (the judging elders of 1 Corinthians 14, if you like), but we are still hoping to find ways in which our churches can grow without professional leadership, possibly amongst those who have no desire for a public role. Is it possible?