DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

New Seasons

Written by: on April 11, 2019

Leadership books are hard right now. After 15 years working at King University in an attempt to develop and maintain a viable ministry program, I received my notice of termination about a month ago. So, at the end of this semester I will officially be a dependent. I don’t share this information to gain sympathy or empathy. However, as I read the many books on leadership in this program over the past year or so it is hard not to read them through the lens that seeks to find fault with the university administration, recognizing all of the things that were done poorly that led to this point in my career. I am certainly not without fault and leadership books were never high on my reading priority list before I met you all. Unfortunately, it seems that neither were they high on the priority list for my University’s administration.

‘Dare to Lead’ is my first introduction to Brene’ Brown, though I have heard her name bandied about for several years. Again, leadership books. Those are for people in positions of authority, right? I’m just the little guy trying to make a difference in the lives of students. I see the fault in that thinking now and feel evermore confident that stumbling over this DMin program was a divine appointment. I was captivated by Brown’s unique approach to the reality of leadership, the emotional perspective that I assume is largely dismissed in traditional books on the subject.

So rather than dwell any longer on my situation I believe it is more prudent to attempt to apply the text to my area of interest.

From my perspective I believe the Church, particularly the white, middle class variety in the United States, is experiencing cataclysmic decline. While there are some bright spots, I am convinced that almost all of those represent consolidation rather than genuine growth by profession of faith. The patterns of church life and leadership are changing but it seems the Church is very slow to recognize the need for change.

Emerging generations are fully immersed in postmodern thought. They are skeptical of institutions, do not readily accept information (read sermons) conveyed by authority figures, and generally desire to grow experientially. Yet, for some reason the Church continues to embrace the same patterns that were effective within the confines of modernism yet fail to fully connect with those steeped in postmodernism. I believe there is something to Brene’ Brown’s suggestion that one of the keys to leadership is vulnerability. “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”[1] Not only does the Church like to be able to predict the outcome, in most circumstances the preference is to dictate the outcome. That position is completely ineffective with emerging generations. It is little wonder that they are abandoning the Church.

Leadership that garners connection with emerging generations is not what is demonstrated from a platform or proclaimed by those in positions of authority. Leadership that accepts the change that postmodernism has brought is one that seeks to earn the trust of those being led. Brown reminds us that, “It turns out that trust in fact is earned in the smallest of moments.” [2] This suggests that the churches that will lead the next generation will ultimately not be the largest ones or the ones with the most recognizable personalities up front, it will be those that are willing to relinquish some of the control, demonstrate vulnerability, and take the time to earn the trust of individuals and groups. I love the thought behind Brene’s image of leaders as those who are fellow passengers. She says; “I am a traveler, not a mapmaker. I am going down this path same as and with you.”[3] Leaders that are willing to be self-effacing enough to communicate this through word and deed are those that will capture the attention of young people.

It is true. I wish that the administration of King University had read this text and several of the others we have had the privilege to digest over the past eighteen months. But as I allow this season of work to expire and look forward to the next, I am encouraged by what I have read and as a result believe I am more prepared to lead. I have no idea in what form that leadership will take but I hope at the very least I will have the wherewithal to communicate in a way that mirrors the quote by Jim Hollis highlighted in ‘Dare to Lead’. “We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As [God] intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.”[4] Isn’t that the essence of the Gospel? In this new season, both in my life and that of the U.S. Church, I hope we are vulnerable enough to become ‘more and more ourselves’ and lead others to do the same in a manner that most effectively connects with them.

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[1]Brown, Brene’. Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts. New York: Random House, 2018. P. xviii

[2]Ibid. p. 32

[3]Ibid. p. 63

[4]Ibid. p. 74

About the Author

mm

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping young people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

11 responses to “New Seasons”

  1. Jay says:

    Hi Dan,

    I think of you constantly these days and am continuing to lift you up in prayer. Let’s go fishing!

    I have to be honest, I must have been the last person in the Cohort to know about Brene Brown. Thankfully, I have been reading up on her, and have found this,

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brene-brown-church_n_56200e7be4b069b4e1fb6e7a

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jay,

      I was slow in recognizing her work as well and this is my first book of hers. I found it compelling but I don’t know how we are meant to apply all of the insights we have gained from the authors we have read the past 2 years. I feel overwhelmed!

      Thanks for the video clip of Brene’ Brown. I had wondered about her spiritual journey as I found much in her work that resonated with issues of faith.

  2. Great post, Dan!

    I’m so sorry to hear about this sudden change for you. I’ll be praying that God opens even better doors for you and your family in the next coming weeks.

    ‘Dare to Lead’ was my inaugural introduction to Brené Brown too. I had never even heard of her before this assignment. When you think of the word, Leadership, you picture business, stoic, austere, hierarchical chaos where the bosses are separated from the underlings in the penthouse office. Countless books talk about understanding one’s audience, but they fail to teach you how to understand through an empathetic stance. This is what sets Brown apart.

    You suggest, “Not only does the Church like to be able to predict the outcome, in most circumstances the preference is to dictate the outcome.” Absolutely! For years, I’ve seen the church hold onto the reigns of budget control, leadership control, and congregation control. This is why many Millennials and Generation Z individuals are seen as disloyal because they refuse to follow suit and be conformed to the masses. Why do certain generations struggle with the concept of a diversified opinion? The defining term for Millennials is authenticity. How can churches and parachurches exemplify this?

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Colleen,

      I think we have very similar perspectives when it comes to the Church and emerging generations. I know there are communities that do things differently but I just don’t see enough of them and find that even those that attempt to connect with emerging generations are still led by people who look like me. I think that is part of the problem.

      Authenticity is critical if we hope to engage this generation. Too much of what occurs to me simply looks like a Christian veneer. Without genuineness in relationships and vulnerability in leadership there is little hope of engaging the next generation. I just pray that some in my generation will be willing to step aside so that new forms of Christian community can develop with leaders that understand their cultural context.

  3. Great post Dan! I love how you modeled vulnerability and brought us into your journey towards uncharted territory. What a scary time in life, yet you have an amazing foundation to lead from wherever God places you. I love this quote you included: “We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As [God] intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.” What a great reminder that we are called to be the best version of ourselves, whatever that may look like. Blessings to you for your next adventure, and honored to call you a colleague.

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Dan,
    Whenever I think of you I think back to our walk to the restaurant in South Africa. You have such a humble heart you surely would have been more at ease walking at a much faster pace but hung with the guy with bad knees. It spoke to me of your heart. God certainly has a place for you and I know your experience in the program is part of it. Thanks for your reflections.

    Jason

  5. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Dan, Kudos to you for your courageous blog post. It has been a challenging journey – and yet you handle it with grace and dignity. This book (and Brene) speak to me on so many levels – but I’m with you…if higher ed would adopt some of Brene’s suggestions and leadership techniques, the university system would be in a better place. One that resonates with me is if you aren’t willing to have the difficult conversations, you won’t be in leadership in 5 years. Christian universities aren’t willing to have those hard conversations in my experience!

  6. Greg says:

    Dan. Talk is cheap-as the saying goes. You really live that vulnerable life with us. Thank you for the trust and challenge you give us. Somehow I missed that Jim Hollis quote…love it and am challenged to live it as well. As scary as it is, I am excited to see what happens on your journey of faith as well.

  7. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Dan, thanks for sharing with us and continuing in the path of vulnerability. We are with you friend. I am praying with you as you discern in this next season. Somehow the bitter seems to produce sweet if we allow ourselves not to become bitter. I see you doing this in your writing but will continue to pray for your courageous journey. Looking forward to hearing the next outcomes and seeing the fruit of your research. The church needs it!

  8. Thanks, Dan. In my opinion, you are one of the stellar models of courage/vulnerability in our cohort!

    This statement really struck me: “Leadership that accepts the change that postmodernism has brought is one that seeks to earn the trust of those being led.” This is so true. Yet, mission orgs, like the church, are still trying to lead in modernist, authoritarian ways. Most of the emerging generation will walk away from that type of leadership.

    Really great thoughts.

  9. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Dan, great post. I really appreciated you modeling what the book was talking about this week. I also rally appreciate your thoughtful comment you made to my paper. This timing is certainly interesting to be reading leadership books. Im sure many people are telling you this, but I’m sure God will you use this for your gain. 🙂

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