DMINLGP

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

Relevance, Application, Engagement

Written by: on March 14, 2015

We’ve been encouraged to engage in our reading with a lens of applicability and relevance. What themes apply to my present situations and are relevant to my dissertation research?   The challenge of journal articles can be that one is withdrawn from the overall context that shapes and informs the subject at hand. However, though I am somewhat unfamiliar with management theory these two articles on provocative theory and attention within a scholarship of practice demonstrate something about the author. Ramsey is committed to engagement, willing to step into new areas of learning; she is adaptable and responsive to both students and management colleagues. In other words, she models what she writes. Her focus in both articles centres on the relationship of engagement rather than just applying a theory.[1]

 

As I was reading I responded to each article within two specific frameworks, the first was Church oriented. The second pertains to my dissertation research on those (of the baby boomer generation) that leave church. I realize there is a tendency (perhaps it is always present) to want to know what we need to know so that we can take what it says, apply it to our present situation to achieve desired results. In both articles Ramsey invites us to consider whether this is really sustainable long term. As I am writing I also wonder if, without actually saying it, she confronts the subtle mentality of consumerism – just tell me the “thing” to do (object/product) so I can do it (exchange for benefit). If we had not been invested in this program I would not have considered such a thought. But I digress!

 

Actually, might be digressing is the more fitting, because my reflections on our reading fit more into the musing realm. Caroline has given me (us) things to consider and not cast away. Within much of my church life (Remember church has been part of my life for more than 50 years!), management, especially business management was frowned upon and doubted. This doubt under minded the good that academic management theory might have provided within my church context. Then in the 1990’s I witnessed a dramatic shift, management practices were being utilized within the Church, especially in terms of church growth and structure. I do not begrudge the need nor the benefits of this application. Yet when church industry grows up in response with ready answers and application something is lacking. Ramsey addresses this complexity. She shifts the attention from one directional – “theory, concept, framework or research finding towards how management-learners appropriate ideas from within such management thinking to their day to day managerial practice.”[2] No wonder it is provocative! Rather than learn first and then apply a very specific set applications, provocative theory takes us into relationship with, both learning and the direction required takes place within social processes.[3]

 

Many churches have moved toward a “missional” approach. I am part of a church that is committed to living the gospel in the heart of our community. This outward movement resulted in a revitalized church. It was not just that programs were started as a response to community need; it was the relationships that were fostered because of those programs. The challenge I sense today is how and what we are learning, “knowing in practice”[4] is how Ramsey phrases it. Provocative theory presents knowledge as something that is incomplete apart from context. “Knowledge is seen as situated and emergent, created and expressed in social practices.”[5] There is adaptability that is required. I wonder if we have somehow lost the voice of our neighbors? We are developing a cooperative project, which has the potential to significantly impact our neighborhood in response to its needs. I wonder “who’s” voices have we not heard that might be impacted by this project? In a missional approach are we too reliant on cause and effect?

 

The challenge we might have undergirding us is confronted in provocative theory. “Provocative use of theory promotes practice-as-learning, for it brings into focus a generative conversation between symptoms, ideas, work context and action in creation of changed practice.”[6] In the stories of Mike and Kieran those that were involved either as stakeholders or subjects were vital in the direction and outcomes. This is exactly what I am recognizing as I begin to work on developing my interview questions and method for my dissertation. I have interviewed fewer than 15 people, yet I am learning from them what it is I need to be asking. At least I think so. For Mike and Kieran their success ultimately depended on their ability to listen and adapt. I appreciate the wording “circle of inquiry.”[7] It is a vivid and imaginative representation of what takes place in this process.

 

The challenge of provocative theory is that is calls us to new practices. This challenges our desire for stability as opposed to change, a mindset that there is only one possible result (or right way), and it brings the issue of power into the picture. How am I engaging with ideas, for instance? What if I stopped being stuck in ideas and considered the action that is afforded?[8] When I am presented with a problem, a challenge, an opportunity what are the questions that need to be asked, not just what are the desired outcomes? Am I paying attention?

 

As I reflect on both my dissertation and in particular what I am seeing on the church landscape regarding theology I wonder how this needs to be rephrased as a question within the church, “Our ‘teaching’ should, therefore, emphasise the process of this attentional relating rather than an understanding of academic theory.” If we did so, what practices might evolve?

 

 

 

 

            [1] Carolyn Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice” Open Research Online 45, no. 5 (2012): 469, accessed March 9, 2015, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1177/1350507612473563.

 

            [2] Ibid., 470.

 

            [3] Ibid., 471.

[4] Ibid. 472.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 478.

[7] Ibid. 487.

[8] Carolyn Ramsey, “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centred on Attention?” Open Research Online 45, no. 1 (2012): 13, accessed March 9, 2015, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1177/1350507610394410

 

About the Author

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Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

11 responses to “Relevance, Application, Engagement”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Carol, excellent post here! I thoroughly love to read about how people seek to understand the relationship between theory and one’s social context. You have beautifully laid out how this week’s reading and how theory, management and leadership apply in your world of research and church life. In so doing, you provided me with yet another perspective on the provocative theory. Also, your statement, ” … and it brings the issue of power into the picture. How am I engaging with ideas, for instance?” is timely. You leave me with a potent question to reflect on and I would like to share this with the leaders and managers I will meet in Uganda.

    Thanks Carol!

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Carol
    A really good blog post! Thank you for sharing about your own church experience. It’s most helpful. I appreciate where you wrote, “This outward movement resulted in a revitalized church. It was not just that programs were started as a response to community need; it was the relationships that were fostered because of those programs.” Being at a place where we are just beginning to do mission, this is a most valuable insight. It’s so easy for me to get lost in the ‘tasking’ and to forget that it’s about relationships. Thank you for the reminder!

    • Liz…
      You are definitely engaged with “practice learning.” The challenge (and opportunity) in building relationships is that is can help us to understand what the need is as those we desire to serve can become our partners. Blessings on your ministry!

  3. mm Deve Persad says:

    What I appreciate about your blogpost this week, Carol, is that it speaks to the tension that I (maybe all of us) are feeling as we consider our dissertation writing. We’ve all come in with some kind of idea as to what we want to research. If we’re open about it, we likely already had an idea about what we want our outcomes to look like. Yet throughout the course of our Dmin journey, we have likely been surprised by some things, affirmed in others and hopefully led to places we never thought we’d discover. Your questions: “When I am presented with a problem, a challenge, an opportunity what are the questions that need to be asked, not just what are the desired outcomes? Am I paying attention?” are extremely pertinent for us in this. Thanks – I need the reminder for both.

    • Deve…
      We are definitely “in” this journey together. I know that this cohort is such a strategic part of helping me to grow and learn. You are so right we have been lead to places (and learning) that we might not have expected when we first began. And I am so glad we did!

  4. Richard Volzke says:

    Carol,
    Great statement, “As I am writing I also wonder if, without actually saying it, she confronts the subtle mentality of consumerism – just tell me the “thing” to do (object/product) so I can do it (exchange for benefit).” I think you are on to something with this line of thought. I believe that the mindset of ‘tit for tat’ is the working model found in the Western world today. Very few people think of their job as a career anymore. A job is nothing more than a means to pay my bills and get money to do things I want. There is very little loyalty shown to the employee or to the company. Instead of looking out for each other, we are only thinking of ourselves. I’ve actually seen this magnified in some Christian organizations. They tend to be the “good ole’ boys network”, where people trade favors and friends get voted into higher positions regardless of ability. From my observation, younger generations are coming up into roles and beginning to realize that the system is broken. They are paying attention. My fear is that that, although they are being attentive to their learning, they will be limited on the number of organizations with good operations and leadership that will allow them the exposure and practical experience to enable them to grow the church in a healthy manner. We need to pay attention to the way that we are training and educating ourselves and new generations of Christian leaders. Consumerism has greatly influenced both church and education, so this is the model in which we are teaching future leaders.
    Richard

    • Richard…
      You raise areas of concern. You wrote, “My fear is that that, although they are being attentive to their learning, they will be limited on the number of organizations with good operations and leadership that will allow them the exposure and practical experience to enable them to grow the church in a healthy manner.” Is there a way for us to cultivate and affirm values that will seek the “welfare of the city” (thinking of Jeremiah)?

      Blessings…

  5. Carol,

    Brilliant post. Thanks for shedding some light on the reading for me. You certainly gleaned more from the readings than I did; I struggled with the whole purpose for the reading, although I finally did get some meaning and practical application in the end. But your post really helped me to gain a better understanding out of what Ramsey was trying to say.

    On another note — my turn to digress — my wife and I went back to our church this morning after an almost one year absence. There are many reasons we returned that I would like to share with you sometime. I think my wife and I would be good subjects for your dissertation research. Just let me know. Maybe we can set up a time to meet in the near future — or at least in Hong Kong. By the way, this was the best Sunday I have had in a long, long time.

  6. Carol, great application of the academic theory that Ramsey presents. You have been able to do the very thing that Ramsey advocate for, i.e., scholarship of practice. You have taken the highly academic writing and contextualize them for your surroundings of the church.
    Within the context of the church and theology there is much disconnect if preacher/teachers are two theoretical and lack relational context or attention they fail to bridge the gap between the higher learning and the practice or implementation of that learning that would otherwise be beneficial. As Ramsey states: “Theories from the Academy provide practitioners with the language that enliven one’s reflection-in-action and could be contextualize in the light of evidence one gathers whilst talking with colleagues”
    Great connection with the circle of inquiry that you brought out. I would agree with you that you are definitely involved in this as you continue to interview people and find from those interviews the direction of both your questions and your writing.

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