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