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

Learning management

Written by: on March 12, 2015

Management learning is a field in which I am in great need! Having never church planted nor led a church before, I feel like a complete novice for whom the learned theories are simply not enough. I need practice centred learning, the kind that Ramsey advocates, “where new practice is privileged, rather than knowledge that is to be applied in practice.” [i] I need to exercise inquiry and practice reflection. I need to frequently ask, as Ramsey does, “Where do we go from here?”

I appreciate Aristotle’s emphasis on phronesis, practical wisdom that generates wise action [ii] Being a very practical person, this approach is very appealing. It’s a hands-on learning experience, learning as one goes. My own ‘research project’ in this season is learning how to grow a church. Like Ramsey, I find conducting semi-structured interviews with experienced church planters and church growth experts most helpful. Just yesterday I had the privilege of interesting Dr. Lucy Peppiatt, Dean of Westminster Theological Centre. She retold to me her own experiences of church planting, the difficulties and challenges they faced, how she made judgements and decisions, the joys and successes. Basically she relayed a practice-centred learning experience, one which Ramsey explains in theoretical form. As Ramsey states, “practice-centred learning involves the physical; it is not a learning that just goes on inside the head, so to speak, apparent only in knowledge, understanding or attitudes but is seen more in actions.” [iii]

One personal management challenge I have faced this past year is the need to form a leadership team. Having been discipled and ordained in the Baptism denomination, trained in Reformed theology, and worked in a Korean Presbyterian environment, I have seen numerous models of church leadership. So what is the right way forward for Bethel Community Church? Honestly, I have shied away from the Baptist model, having seen little good fruit from the power of the majority-vote of church members. The Reformed influence just taught me to question, ‘What am I, a woman, doing in leading a church in the first place?” While the Korean Presbyterian style of top-down power leadership doesn’t seem too appealing either.

Other management learning challenges I’m faced with include remembering to collaborate as a team, improving communication, learning how to make wise leadership decisions, training and equipping new leaders and so on. Indeed, this past year has been the steepest learning curve of my life, as I’m sure many church planters can appreciate. As Dr. Kate Coleman recently wrote to me, “No one can prepare you for the experience of church planting.” Yes, I would wholeheartedly agree! May God supply the wisdom needed!

[i] Caroline Ramsey, “Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” Open Research Online, 2012, 2

[ii] Ramsey, 3

[iii] Ramsey, 4

About the Author

Liz Linssen

9 responses to “Learning management”

  1. Deve Persad says:

    Glad the post went up, Liz! It’s been good to read and share in your real-time experiences. Figuring out leadership models can be a huge task. There is definitely wisdom in trying to figure out what kind of leadership will most benefit the congregation. One of the challenges that I have faced over the years, is people defaulting to my perspective because I possess a title as a leader. In turn one of the keys that we are learning is the importance of redirecting the questions back and then helping to work out answers/direction together. Giving encouragement and empowerment to then pursue that direction can be life-giving to people, as they realize they do in fact possess the capacity, in the Lord, to be effective. Keep at it, Liz and we’ll look forward to celebrating the marks of faithfulness along the way!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you so much Deve. I appreciate your leadership insights and reflections. It’s an interesting perspective you shared, about empowering the members of the church. Like you, I don’t want them looking to me for their life decisions. I want them to look to God, to seek Him and His counsel and guidance.
      And then there is the question of the day to day leadership decisions of the church – pursuing the vision. It’s a challenge indeed!

    • Richard Volzke says:

      You said, “One of the challenges that I have faced over the years, is people defaulting to my perspective because I possess a title as a leader.” I agree with you that many times you can redirect back to the individual. I would also like to say that sometimes people should defer to us, because God has placed us in the position of leadership. In my ministry experience, I have seen pastors give up the mantel of leadership, because they did not want people to think they were dictators. As the Scriptures point out, some are called to be teachers, preachers, and leaders.

  2. Michael Badriaki says:

    Liz, thank you for sharing about your experience in the process of planting Bethel Community Church. Reading your post took back to the days I was involved in church planting and growth. I appreciate your willingness to follow God’s direction and you desire to see God move among the community in which you are serving.

    I totally agree with Dr. Kate Coleman’s words “No one can prepare you for the experience of church planting.” Church planting is such an adventure.

    I pray for phronesis!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you Michael!
      I didn’t know that you had church planted previously. Would love to hear your story and how God guided you through that experience. I love hearing how God has worked in leader’s lives.
      May God indeed give us phronesis!

  3. Liz,

    Oh my! I could not think of a more difficult task than that of planting a church. I admire you for having the courage to do this!

    One thing I am learning about leadership in my studies is that in healthy leadership models, it is not about the title one holds that makes one a leader. Often in Native-American leadership situations, the leaders is not the one with the title; rather, the leader is the one who has something to say in a given situation. And the leader just shows up when the time is right. Also, it is not only what the leaders says that is important but what the leader does not say. In fact, sometimes the best thing a leader can do is to be silent. This is counter-intuitive to a Western mindset, but I have seen it in action a couple of times and it is an amazing sight to behold. Again, leadership is not about always being in front, but might just be about being in the back. This sounds familiar, but you won’t read about it that often in Western leadership models.

    May the Lord lead you daily as you consider the work of leading your church. I would love to know what you decide about leadership in your church.

  4. John Woodward says:

    Liz, I always appreciate your posts, as you give real life application in your work that I find so helpful. I had the blessing of working with college students for so many years, which required a high degree of involvement and commitment (since they were only there four or five years). Creating any kind of organization required allowing hands on involvement by the maximum number of students…so, democratic majority rule never fit. The more I worked with fluid and family types of structures, the more I saw this a biblical model, because it provided opportunity for everyone to have a say and be involved. And, it also took away the need for me to feel like the CEO or “lord of the realm” – which I never felt comfortable with. But, at the same time, it was a whole lot more messy! Therefore, I appreciate your challenges you face, as a new church I would assume would need “all hands on board” to be successful…but isn’t that the same need the early church had as well? And isn’t that why the early church grew? Thanks for sharing your insights and real world application!

  5. Stefania Tarasut says:

    Liz, what can possibly not be appealing about a top down model? This time you can be on top 🙂 HA! I’m with you… I grew up in the Baptist model and have been in the KPCA for a better part of my adult life. Both of these models are difficult for me to thrive in, but I’ve learned to adjust and changed my style in order to survive.
    I’ll keep you in my prayers. I was part of a church plant a lifetime ago, and I remember the struggle.

  6. Liz, it has been wonderful to see the progress of your church plant and to have actually been there to preach. What a joy to have made a small investment into your body and ministry. I can’t wait for another opportunity to be with you, Will, and your church people. Truly church planting is one of the most difficult things a minister can undergo. Another one is to try to save a failing church and make a full turn around. This is the struggle I underwent with little to no success. I feel your pain but am hopeful that you will bless and love them to become the great people that you know they can me.

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