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


Written by: on March 12, 2015

In her articles Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention? And Provocative theory and a scholarship of practice, Caroline Ramsey poses questions regarding the development of managerial theories and practices and considers how we learn. Due to the academic nature of the articles, it can be a little tricky to get to the heart of what she is presenting.

One tool employed by Ramsey that I found particularly helpful was the inclusion of narratives to help explain her points. While I may still not fully grasps the depth of the articles, I will do my best to share what I gained from them.

At the heart of the issue is the question, how are management theories developed? In many circles, the process may be a top-down approach in which academics, often disassociated from the actual management process in a particular situation, compile data, conduct research, and develop a systematic approach to address the issues. There can be many problems with this approach. The most obvious is that the disconnect between the researcher and the real world can lead to a misunderstanding of the key issues, failing to understand the complexity of the situation from the point of view of first-hand experience. Solutions can be offered for problems that do not really exist while failing to address the critical issues. In this scenario, academic work can stay purely academic, not resulting in actions. Managers and leaders want it to make sense in the real world in which they live. Ramsey states, “sense making always involves action rather than analysis and understanding.”[1]

Another key issue has to do with relationship. Going back to the common disconnect between the researcher and the people who are affected by theories, policies and decisions, it is easy to understand the reluctance people often have to accepting new practices of management. Developing a relationship in which ideas can go back and forth creates an atmosphere of cooperation that lays the foundation for not only better assessment and development of ideas, but for better implementation of new practices due to the fact that the person responsible for implementation was part of the process. This cooperation also recognizes that gifts, insight, and intelligence of everyone involved.

In one of the narratives, we see Mike sitting in on a jazz improv session. Mike “was interested in the way that different musicians contributed to the final piece rather than just the composer or conductor.”[2] He points out that the maestro had to “compose around existing skills and competencies.”[3]

This speaks of two distinct leadership styles. The first involves making top down decisions without really listening to the people who will be affected by the decisions. The second involves listening and including others in both the assessment and development of policies. The first creates a disconnect and misses opportunities to gain a fuller understanding and can even be degrading to others. The second works within the context of a team where people are heard, better policies are implemented, and those policies stand a much better chance of being put into action. The first is easier and less time consuming than the latter, but the latter generally produces better results.

These are good lessons for the Church and other christian organizations. Too often research is done by those “at the top” who make decisions and set policies. While this may be easier, it ultimately ignores that gifts and abilities of others. Rather than creating “greater efficiency”, it creates division and frustration. God has created us to be the body. Let’s honor the parts of the body as we work together to build the kingdom.


[1] Caroline Ramsey, “Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” Management Learning”, 45(1), (2011): 12.

[2] Caroline Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice,” Management Learning 42(5) (2011), 13.

[3] Ibid., 14.

About the Author


Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

22 responses to “Teamwork”

  1. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Brian, I also caught the negative impact of Top down leadership yet so often that’s how our churches and ministries are run. Maybe it’s ease or ego but I wonder why our churches default to this model? Particularly, when we can clearly see scripture layout the need for everyone to play there part in the Body of Christ.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Nick, that is a great question. I’m wrestling with similar ones myself. I just returned from two days of training for “continuing education training” as a coach for a district-led leadership training initiative. It is really good stuff and good coaching skills etc etc etc… But (always a “but” with me lately…),

      All of the training that my district is rolling out for our churches is based on an organizational paradigm that has been more shaped by corporate (think “capitalist”) than by scripture.

      Hmmm, why can’t we just rewind back to when we were blindly ignorant to the things we have leaned this year. But, once you know something, you can’t un-know it, can you?


      • mm Mary Pandiani says:

        Could it be that you’re losing some of the capitalistic impulses that influenced you for so long? Oh no, look at what school – a provocative reflecting practicing learning environment – does to us?!!!! 🙂

        • Jon Spellman says:

          Mary, unquestionably. I am seeing micro-systems in the light of macro (global) trends in a way that I never did before! That will yank the capitalist right out of you for sure! Issues of justice and equity are not simple and can’t be remedied with platitudes like “just get a job…” they are systemic, the system has to be adjusted.


  2. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Nick and Brian,

    I’ve served in top down organizations that are very effective and healthy, and I served in organizations that drive for consensus until they are so paralyzed that they don’t act. I’d say there is good and bad in both structures and leadership can be good or bad in either model. I’m coming at this with a business background vs. church or christian organization background.

    Over time, I’ve sensed a negativity in the mind of church leaders towards things that they perceive as being too “business” like. Yet, I’ve often seen the opposite in the corporate world. So, it does seem that people fear leaders who make decisions in churches, and they lean heavily on gaining consensus. Often, they fail to move forward due to a lack of direction. I wonder if fear has driven churches too far in the opposite direction, leaving them without strong and decisive leadership. Given this, how can good leadership and management skills be propagated throughout church bodies? According to the article, relationships and meaningful experience must be incorporated into the learning journey. The question is, how do leaders learn and develop styles that are effective? How can the Christian community apply these principles in the “on the job” training that many pastors and church leaders receive? We all know that good management is an issue in many churches.

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      Good pints, Dawnel.
      In western cultures, I think the need for consensus often comes from a leaders need to be liked by everyone. Teamwork and collaboration can still take place in a top-down organization. The difference is that people and ideas are heard, often leading to more practical solutions. Of course this is a process and must be well communicated by the leader.

      • Jon Spellman says:

        Brian, where do you think that need to be affirmed and liked comes from in church leaders?

        • Dawnel Volzke says:

          Jon and Brian,

          I have the same question – do you think that pastors fear becoming unpopular, and they perceive that will lead to job insecurity?

          • Jon Spellman says:

            Dawnel, my perspective as a 22 year pastor is that we hold onto faulty understanding of scripture relative to “serving” and “humility” and the like. We are terrified of people feeling rejected, even if they should be rejected… I don’t know if its so much a fear of lost income as it is misunderstanding of what it means to be a caring minister. And probably a healthy dose of narcissism!

          • Dawnel Volzke says:


            The concept of ‘servant leadership’ is often misunderstood. My observation has been that some pastors correlate caring with ensuring that there is zero disagreement or conflict of ideas. Hence, there isn’t healthy conflict necessary to breed innovation. I have seen pastors seeking to please their boards and avoiding speaking out in order to maintain job security, but I also agree that we have culturally pushed many pastors into a role of peacemaker and consensus collector. Sometimes I look at the list of skills required of a pastor in job descriptions, and I realize that many boards are unrealistic in their expectations. They often want a “yes” man instead of leader who can take their church to the next level.

      • mm Mary Pandiani says:

        For a moment there, I thought you were in a pub 🙂

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, I had a organizational behavior class in grad school that your post (and Ramsey’s articles, but your post brought back into light) that focused on transactional vs. transformational organizational culture. The whole top-down vs. team based collaboration really seems to be the difference. Whether the learning environment is a classroom or the work-field it seems the leader has the opportunity to decide. I wonder if ultimately learning style could be at the bottom of this conversation. I read it initially leadership and management behavior but can really further see the apple cart tipped over if we are almost really getting down to a eastern vs. western culture and value dialogue. Do you think philosophy of learning could be at the heart of this? Maybe that is where Caroline’s pedagogy thinking comes into play???

    • Jon Spellman says:

      I think we see Dr. Ramsey’s under-lying view woven all through these articles, that “conversation” is the real thing to be understood and observed. In any organization, conversation “moves” and changes the overall environment. Conversation can’t be predicted or even controlled unilaterally really, but serves to shape the overall ethos of an organization. If you can trace the arc of a conversation between a “leader” and a “follower” you can trace an organization’s potential for forward movement. Is it a safe space for dialog? Are people’s views suppressed? Appreciated? Formative?

    • mm Mary Pandiani says:

      I remember reading the same concept in a book (what book did you remember having that concept in it?) where I loved the refocus from transactional to transformational. It’s actually what helped change me in my coaching and spiritual direction practice – staying present to someone is far more transformational than wondering what I’m going to “get out of” the relationship

  4. mm Dave Young says:

    Brian, I love the idea that we can lead in such a way that honors and takes input from a broad base. That part of leadership is collaboration with others. I think we both saw that in the “Mike” narrative, how he worked with the ward sisters together to improve or make changes to their work environment. I appreciate your post.

  5. Jon Spellman says:

    Hey Brian. I’m curious as to your experience both in organizational leadership and in being a part of organizations led by others… Have you been in the organization where an honest assessment is made of the people within the organization and then roles crafted around the available members of the team? And then what about the opposite, where roles and duties are delineated and then people recruited, or hired, to those roles? Which has held the best memories for you? I’ve been in both…


  6. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    I love your emphasis on relationship – I spent the weekend with a high school/college buddy where we together went to the funeral of a mutual high school friend. At first intimidated by this high power group (just google the GDP of Menlo Park/Atherton area in Northern California), I realized all they wanted were relationships. I think Caroline is bringing to the forefront what we all long for, whether in personal or professional settings. How can we treat one another with dignity?

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Mary, don’t you love the way she takes nouns and repurposes them as verbs? Like “foregrounding” and “centering”…

      I think I’m going “Ale-ing” a little later then maybe some “Jack-Honeying”
      And pizza-ing is on the horizon for sure!


  7. Travis Biglow says:

    Brian, you hit on some good points about the theory of managment and management. Its kind of similar to visionary and managers. Most of the times managers don’t want to change nothing they want to maintain things. While visionary leaders want change and are not afraid to do it. But here lies the importance of both, they both need to work together. Because the manager can help the leader manage and the visionary leader can help lead the manager from just maintenance. I think engage academics and theory is very important to hands on management. But there is always going to be sometime of conflict because a lot of times people get stuck on a theory and never take action!

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