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So far Terri Elton has created 3 blog entries.

Church Leadership as Adaptive Identity Construction in a Changing Social Context

It is widely acknowledged that organizations and institutions in the Western world are changing dramatically, along with their forms of leadership. Churches are no exception to this trend. As a consequence, pastoral leaders must adapt and reshape the social identity of their Christian communities to address the new challenges of their changing social context. Looking through the lens of the social identity theory of leadership, this paper examines the efforts at congregational identity building of both the apostle Paul and a number of interviewed pastoral leaders in the US and Europe in order to explore innovative ways of community formation.

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The apostle Paul is popularly perceived as a model leader, establishing robust churches that withstood the pressure of Greco-Roman society. But this is hindsight, attributing much greater leadership status to Paul than he actually experienced. He was a strongly and frequently contested leader, who needed to continually envision and construct the religious and social identity of the communities that he founded. How do you see Paul doing this in his epistles? What dimensions of identity have you encountered and how does Paul interact with them? What does that tell you about Paul’s style, focus and skills of leadership?

Pastoral leadership seems to have shifted from:

-people management (pastoral care, spiritual guidance, and counseling) to

-church management (leading and influencing the congregation in its vision, organizing its ministries) to

-identity management (shaping how congregations participate in their neighborhoods and cities – not only to draw people out of the world, but to engage meaningful in their world and contribute to human well-being).

The first two ‘styles’ of pastoral leadership operate within an existing paradigm or church model, while the third ‘style’ adapts or even recreates this paradigm. One could argue that the apostle Paul’s leadership fits especially the third style of (re)envisioning and (re)constructing church identity, although many of us have probably read and applied Paul as a pastoral leader in one of the first two styles.

Considering these shifts in style,

  • In which ‘style’ of pastoral leadership are you mostly involved? Why?
  • How is the identity of your church shifting its roots in its theology, its affiliations and/or its relationships with the surrounding community?
  • How would you evaluate the strength and clarity of your church’s religious and social identity? Is it increasing, maintaining or decreasing? Why?
  • In what ways does the identity of your congregation relate to your location (neighborhood, city, country, etc.) and/or the social/ethnic/age groups you reach? What challenges do you face here?
  • In which ways does your leadership revolve around questions of identity? How has this changed from tasks and skills of one or two decades ago?
  • What major challenges have you experienced or significant lessons learned identity leadership in your church?
  • What do you wish you had learned in your ministerial education about identity leadership?

Jack Barentsen will share about these ideas at ARL’s 2015 annual conference.

Jack Barentsen, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor and interim Chair of Practical Theology and Researcher Institute for Leadership and Ethics at Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium   St. Jansbergsesteenweg 95 3001 Leuven, Belgium

Contact jack at: jack.barentsen@etf.edu or visit: www.etf.edu

Church Leadership as Adaptive Identity Construction in a Changing Social Context2015-03-28T19:49:55-05:00

Leading for Innovation: How to construct space that fosters creativity

Today’s theological systems—churches, seminaries, and non-profit organizations—existamidst a choppy sea of cultural, social, and economic forces. Realities such as an unpredictable economy, a changing landscape of religious vocation, and the democratization of knowledge, often create serious adaptive challenges for theological organizations. An inability to address such adaptive challenges leaves organizations prone to chaos and even failure.

Cultivating the ability to respond creatively in the face of adaptive change may be an antidote for failure. Therefore, constructing holding environments that foster creativity may be important for the ongoing viability of theological organizations. In an effort to articulate how to foster organizational creativity, we can learn from the theological entrepreneurs in our midst. By examining how theological entrepreneurs create in response to a changing world, we might extract principles useful for how to foster creativity in larger organizational settings.

For more on this topic, some hear Michaela o’Donnell Long from Fuller Theological Seminary at the ARL Annual Meeting – April 16-18, 2015 in Chicago.

Leading for Innovation: How to construct space that fosters creativity2015-03-05T15:07:36-06:00

The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age

Agile Church Cover

Dwight Zscheile, author (Morehouse Publishing)

Among the 21st century trends sociologists identify in American life is a rapid erosion of religious participation, most acutely among younger generations. Church or synagogue membership—at one time a mark of status and citizenship in American society—is being replaced by individual quests to create spiritual meaning through “tinkering” (Wuthnow’s term) with practices and stories from multiple sources, often incoherently compiled. Many people are self-authoring spiritual stories and paths in relative isolation from established religious institutions.

To what extent does Clayton Christensen’s research on disruptive innovations illuminate this emerging deinstitutionalization of American spiritual life? Are existing faith communities functioning largely like the established firms in Christensen’s work, offering expensive, elaborate solutions to captive audiences, while ignoring massive environmental shifts underway as Americans increasingly seek their own spiritual paths? How can such communities embrace practices of innovation that attend to those neighbors, and through small experiments and the translation of tradition, open up new and vital expressions of faith?

For more, come to the Academy of Religious Leadership’s 2015 annual meeting and where Dwight Zscheile will share more about his new book and these ideas.


The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age2014-12-06T18:39:31-06:00
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