Towards a Restructuring of the Political-economy of Pioneering Mission in Scotland
Currently, to the extent that pioneer mission is being funded in Scotland, money is largely being invested into practical, often speculative, responses on the ground rather than organisational and cultural change. We need to continue to increase spend on frontline responses and its support in terms of member-care and training. But we also need to invest money to change what I call the meta-culture of mission in Scotland. As Alan MacWilliam has said: “In Scotland we need robust theological convictions that lead to systemic strategic change.” (This article was first written March 2016)
A need to change the meta-culture of mission
This meta-culture is formed of many different elements in tension with one another, and is hard to define conclusively, but it affects all denominations and practitioners in critical ways, even if they take certain ecclesially-nuanced forms in different contexts. For example, the question of middle-management support for pioneers is a core issue, but in the Baptist Union the problem seems to be that core funding for this service is small. In the CofS the issue may be that the structures and policies aren’t calibrated to bring resources to bear in the most helpful way. In other free-church groupings neither money nor policy nor structure is properly developed (doubtless for reasons of historical ecclesiology and schism).
The meta-cultural shift that needs to occur includes but is not limited to issues of mind-set and narrative, issues of power-distribution, issues of recognition and status for pioneers, issues finance, theology, relationships and trust, issues of sectarian fragmentation and non-co-operation, issues of generational mistrust, and structural concerns. These are all things that affect everyone in every church in Scotland, not any one denomination. They are issues of ecclesiology and particularly the theological category of Catholicity…how churches relate to pioneering plants, and how the wider body relates to itself across denominational lines. In particular, there is an urgent need to explore the connection between the understanding of Apostolicity in the Nicene Creed (specifically the dimension of ‘faithfulness to the apostolic mission’) and Catholicity.
To change the missional culture requires transformation of the meta-culture of mission, not just creative and practical frontline responses or more basic training for young hopeful pioneers. And yet even changing the meta-culture, ultimately, will also require practical suggestions for how to move forward. I have listed 16 such options below as a conversation starter. Some will doubtless be more controversial than others. Others may be harder to achieve that the rest. But I want at least to start a conversation about the options, even if ultimately the adapted actions that occur are the fruit of much better expertise than mine.
Starting a conversation about the options
My basic idea is that denominations, trusts, and local churches invest money not only in training, or merely granting funds to mission organisations to get out and ‘do the stuff’. But also invest resources towards the business of fostering culture change at local and denominational levels. The change revolves around the theology, economics and culture of mission, and supporting missional pioneers and teams (both innovating out from a local church – mixed economy - and starting afresh in a new location – start-ups). If this nut can be cracked, then we will create an economically and structurally attractive environment for missional pioneers to operate in. We may even attain to sustainability.
But we will also have succeeded, ipso facto, in changing the climate for the whole church to recalibrate around mission. Without this we will be fighting a losing battle as the undertow of resourcing threatens to suck everything back to maintenance. The best approach would be to involve denominations, networks (e.g. Transforming Scotland), sodalic (para-church) entities (e.g. Navigators), and trusts (e.g. MacLellan, Robertson Trust) in this conversation. But also invite elders and representatives from local churches to bring their energy to the table.
Sixteen ideas for changing the meta-culture of mission in Scotland.
The first two of these ideas are already evidencing some green shoots of progress.
- Financially support an online independent network designed to connect pioneering younger leaders in Scotland of whatever tribe and training group to each other. A mode of connection separate from and not in competition with training providers like Forge. Start with a showcase for bringing to the surface stories of the plethora of creative but under-the-radar pioneer responses that are happening across Scotland. An early iteration of this was launched in January 2017, and called White Canvas. Eventually this portal could be used to:
- connect pioneers to grassroots donors who share interests in particular forms or locations for mission, enabling ordinary congregational members across Scotland to know about and financially invest into pioneering initiatives across Scotland;
- help pioneers to advocate for themselves, by enabling a different type of forum to emerge. Advocacy for ourselves in what we think is required in terms of culture shift and resource usage and for that voice to be amplified as we ‘write back to’ and challenge/encourage the denominations we are involved in. A group of millenial pioneers that can write its own positional papers and conduct its own research into the places and agendas that we define.
- foster a group that can also gather in the flesh not just to offer testimonies and sound bites but presenting papers talking about the real issues we face, our failures and successes, what we are learning from the bible. Ted-X or Q style.
- Create an ecumenical think-tank to explore the interface between Catholicity and Apostolicity, gathering practitioners and academics to serve denominational policy makers with (comparative) theological and practical resources and tools to navigate the complexity of the organisational change required. Early conversations have begun around such a group.
- Create an ‘Eco-congregation’ grading scheme, where the eco stands not for ecology but for ‘missional economics’. This scheme will tailor to local churches a step-by-step financial change strategy to release resources for mission. There would be award levels and a national prize-giving ceremony for churches that achieve good results. It could be married to the Future Travellers programme of SCCM. It would offer a variety of innovative models and means for creative economic practice and redistribution to be practised. In the last 15 years we have begun to create a culture of permission-giving and training for pioneering mission. Now we need to face the fact that resourcing, not just permission and training is required.
- Create a scheme whereby MacLellan (or another grant-giving trust) fosters an approach to church planting through which 3-4 local churches combine their energy to release a church plant sustainably for 5 years. In effect, these 3-4 churches become a mini-mission agency and all donate money to the work. Churches that partner in a particular framework would gain access to part-funding by MacLellan as well as a denomination of choice. £10,000 from the churches and £5000 apiece from Maclellan and the denomination for 3 years would set up a missional leader for the necessary support in the initial phases.
- Advocate for and reward churches which move to a post-Christendom model of bi-vocational and part-time APEST (or other) leadership that also releases funds for a missional pioneer. Instead of driving resources through the Christendom model of 2-3 paid full-time posts, churches (and self-sacrificing senior leaders) are encouraged to move to a model where every-leader gains a part-time salary in a way that releases a missional pioneer to start something fresh outside itself.
- Enable envisioning for older leaders in full-time posts who are afraid to change and create space for the next generation to meet other f/t older leaders who have made the jump into fresh expressions and financial insecurity (e.g. John Coles and Peter Neilson). The current generation of local church leaders choosing to go bi-voc would a) model with integrity what we are being called to by full-timers and b) release twice as many resources for mission as we now have. Seek to change culture away from 3/4 leaders over 50yrs old in (evangelical) churches. See the Barna report.
- Create a network of Christians in the workplace who can proactively offer re-training to church leaders who are coming out of full-time leadership and going bi-voc (in order to pioneer new initiatives or make space for others to do so).
- Enable and proactively challenge larger churches to visit similar churches who have taken on responsibility for fostering a church plant in a poor area and done it well (e.g. Marple Anglican Church in Stockport planting GLO church in the estate of Offerton). And also enable them to connect with organisations with cross-cultural expertise like 20 Schemes, Eden and InnerCHANGE and Urban Expression. Enabling good practice in redistribution of resources.
- Create an annual prize award show to showcase, reward and honour best practice in pioneering and innovative mission. The goal here is not to create a culture of competition but of esteem and affirmation for faithfulness and excellence.
- Offer a scholarship scheme especially to women leaders to be trained towards innovative and pioneering mission, and money to ensure that female pioneers also get a chance to gather together in ways that are controlled by and conducive to them. Not necessarily divided off from other pioneers (unless that was seen as favourable), but in order to enable greater equity in the system to support their presence. Seek to change culture away from being 9/10 males in senior leadership in (evangelical) churches in Scotland. See the Barna report.
- Create a scholarship fund that enables trainee pioneer ministers at Scottish mission colleges to access training in a trade or craft so that they can be prepared work bi-vocationally, not just theologically.
- Foster a network to equip existing church leaders and people on mission in the workplace to be able to learn how to teach and support effectively their congregations who are in the workplace…ethics, finance, cultural engagement.
- Invest in a training tool designed to help ordinary church members also save and invest money (and dedicate their own personal time as volunteers) in mission and pioneering, not just ‘tithing’ to the local church.
- Advocate for mutual accountability and mutual goal-setting between grant-giving trusts and pioneers, but also individual congregational donors and pioneers. Grant-Giving trusts and individual donors should be as accountable in the way their funds are distributed as used as they are expecting grass-roots groups to be in return for receiving the money. And ethos/target setting and evaluation should be mutual worked out as appropriate for the context.
- Develop a strategic plan for Scotland in terms of areas and people groups in partnership with various denominations and ask churches and denominations to prioritise their efforts according to these guidelines rather than merely ‘to the spirit’. Seek to avoid double-planting in the same areas and communities. This will avoid wastage of resources and the ever-present danger of merely increasing resources to well-resourced communities and people groups.
- Encourage 60+ church leaders to retire from academic and modal/sodal ministry posts and dedicate themselves either to fundraising or going back to work…to generate income for younger generations and fight back against the funnel demographic shift we are facing. Develop training and coaching for retiring leaders to support this shift
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