Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

leadership in context

Written by: on March 14, 2015

Caroline Ramsey’s article on “the Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” uncovers great insight from her own “ongoing learning in how to help managers, and other organization participants, do their work better.”[1] In particular, I am interested in the author’s remarks on the importance of “attention as a key process in a scholarship of practice.”[2] In this section the author describes how experts in the business world apprehend their work context by “taking into account a variety of relevant factors”[3] such as “characteristics of the world that give clues to our perceptions” and also “…changes in environmental clues.”[4] I think the principles of attention can be practical in a ministry or church context as well. How we attend to our immediate surroundings has the potential to shape our perceptions and can guide our actions. Also, as Ramsey says, attention linked to mindfulness “adds a social dimension to our attending by noting how our talk not only informs other but also strikes, moves or gestures.”[5]

The challenge I often observe in the mission field is that ministry leaders often attempt to impose their seminary trainings or church doctrines directly in a new mission environment. One of those stories occurred a couple of years ago at a leadership training hosted by my ministry in Ethiopia. The training was focused on how to share the gospel in culturally respectful ways. The participants were our evangelists, teachers from our elementary schools, and pastors from local churches. At the end of the training, as we always do, we wanted to wrap up our meetings with the celebration of Holy Communion as a sign of our unity and commitment to preaching the gospel. I happened to be the one leading the last session and decided to ask one of the pastor’s if he could serve us the Holy Communion. He politely declined my request. His reasons were he did have his priestly rob and also we did have those little cute communion cups. I was a little bit disappointed because there were 12 new believers baptized that same day and eager to take their first Holy Communion. This incident taught me the importance of paying attention to the context of any given ministry situation, and  to be flexible outside of the church context. For this reason, I’m compelled to agree with the author’s that we need to pay attention “in particular, the manner in which we attend to our work within contexts…”[6]

Another of Ramsey’s articles is on “Provocative Theory and a scholarship of practice.” In this paper, the author highlights how theory relates to practice and proposes the provocative use of theory. The relevant academic resources and personal stories Ramsey referred to were helpful to my understanding the author’s points. In particular, I was interested in the stories of Mike and Kieran. Their stories emphasize the importance of team leadership for the success of an organization. For instance, Mike drawing on his previous experience with improvised jazz where he observed the importance of “different musicians contributed to the final piece rather than just the composer…”[7] enabled him to help ward sisters create “more of a partnership, rather than hierarchical” leadership relationship in their team.[8]

When I think how leadership is done in my faith community, I see that only a few people participate in the church ministry. Church elders and the pastor make most decisions. The pastor is often burdened with the church’s leadership responsibilities and does not have time to building relationship with their faith community. So, for most believers even in my faith community, church is a place they go to sing, listen to sermons, give tithes and then come home. I believe the church needs to rethink how they are equipping their members to be actively involved in kingdom’s work. All of the body of Christ deserves their voices to be heard and their gifts to be utilized for God’s glory.


[1]  Ramsey, Caroline. “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centred on Attention?” Management Learning 45, no. 1(2014): 6-20.,P.2.

[2] Ibid.,6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.,7.

[6] Ibid.,6.

[7] Ramsey, Caroline. “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice.” Management Learning. 42, no. 5 (2011): 469-483. P.14

[8] Ramsey, Caroline. “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice.” Management Learning. 42, no. 5 (2011): 469-483. P.16.







About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

6 responses to “leadership in context”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, great work on this post. I agree with you that Caroline’s articles on management opened areas of insight that are helpful. The need to practice and do ministry in ways that are relevant to the context is so important. We can certainly learn a lot for each other in shared leadership. You also show the need for flexibility during the practice of ministry when you share the story of the priest who declined to conduct holy communion. What a missed opportunity for him to learn in practice that he can serve people with out sticking to certain forms.

    Thank you!

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Telile
    I always enjoy reading your posts because of your shared experience from your culture.
    I appreciate where you wrote at the end, “So, for most believers even in my faith community, church is a place they go to sing, listen to sermons, give tithes and then come home. I believe the church needs to rethink how they are equipping their members to be actively involved in kingdom’s work. All of the body of Christ deserves their voices to be heard and their gifts to be utilized for God’s glory.” Sadly, this is often the case in my country too. People don’t realise that it’s a ‘body’ ministry, not a pastoral ministry. May God give us the wisdom we need to lead our ministries well!

  3. Julie Dodge says:

    This is excellent, Telile. I first liked your example of the pastor who would not serve Holy Communion without his robe and the cute little cups. When we will not adapt to our context, and hold only to our perceived theory or tradition, we miss great opportunity. How sad that this pastor could not see outside of a single way of approaching communion! Last night I had the privilege of facilitating our communion. We watched a Lent video together on confession, and then I took a tray of bread and juice to each member as I prayer out loud. I’m pretty sure that God accepted our practice as honoring Him.

    And then your second set of comments about how the church needs to consider how it functions. The traditional church has specific roles for only the leaders, as you described, while the members receive. Yet I believe that the church is intended to use every member according to their giftings to honor God and proclaim His kingdom. I believe that we are all to engage actively in the ministry of the gospel, which is a different way for any churches.

    Thanks for raising some great thoughts!

  4. Richard Volzke says:

    I agree with you that the Christian community needs to rethink how we equip leaders, but how do we change the model from the top down when many leaders don’t really see the issue at hand? The way we equip and train our leaders is so entrenched the US church and at Christian institutions of higher education. I am not sure the model can be changed easily without having a huge cultural shift, but I am thankful there are some who have taken on the challenge (i.e. George Fox Seminary).

    I also believe the Western church is unwilling to hold individuals accountable for the work they do for the kingdom. We are so afraid of offending someone that we no longer encourage them to use their gifts within the community of believers. To further complicate the issue, we have leaders in some churches that are territorial and insecure. Hence, they are reluctant to allow others to participate in decision making and even in serving. They want people to do the dirty work or to complete tasks, but I’ve found church leaders to be apprehensive about allowing members to develop new programs, lead ministries, or to even speak into the leadership decisions. We complain that we don’t have enough volunteers, yet we don’t allow people the autonomy to grow and utilize their skills in meaningful ways within the church. Hence, people go elsewhere and serve outside of the church.

  5. Telile,

    Thanks for sharing here and for linking the reading into a real-life context yet again. This is why I always like reading your posts.

    I agree with you that all too often, the church leaders are the ones who do everything, make the decisions, implement vision. How can we get more people involved in doing the work of ministry? First of all, I think, we need to properly define what leadership is. Leadership is not just about having a position. In fact, just having a position doesn’t guarantee that one does the work of leadership. And the real leaders might be somewhere else, not having titles.

    It is sad to me when a pastor sees himself as the sole leader of a church. I like the jazz metaphor better. This is when a group leads, all are equal and each has a vital role to play in the group. All listen to each other. All are prepared. All do their part to benefit the whole, not just to benefit themselves. Jesus allowed the disciples to do much of the ministry and even when they failed, it was an important thing that they learned how to do it better the next time. If we do not let others do the work, how will they ever learn? By the way, music always sounds better with multiple musicians who each do their jobs well. Perhaps that is what leadership is supposed to look like.

  6. John Woodward says:

    Telile, you hit on some of the very important points that I also found so relevant in Caroline’s article. Especially, at the end, where you discuss the training and involvement of leaders in our churches. I worked with college students for over 20 years, and wanting to give young people hands on ministry experience and confidence in service. So I would allow them a lot of responsibility and involvement in all aspects of the ministry, hoping they would go on after leaving college and serve in their churches. It required a lot of work (which, as you mention) most ministers seem to busy to provide, and it is a process that is much more fluid and messy (because not everyone is an “expert” and they are learning through doing – not there yet!). But, it made our fellowship more a family than an organization, which I think is what the church was meant to be. Do you think most ministers don’t spend time training and growing leaders because they don’t have time, or do you think they don’t want to loss control or share control? Thanks for your thoughts on this!

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