Role reversal

After having my shoes off since around April, I am now putting them on the other feet. I am heading up missions at our church and I am charged with writing policy. I am somewhat of a skeptic, and policy always has a nasty ring to it. Those that I looked up seem to have a goal of objectivity, and aim to make missions a structured program, manned by elected committee members and approved by the Board. Very democratic, and stuffy.

Many of you out there have either experienced missions, or have participated in policy creation. Is there a way that policy can be written that is flexible, uses ad hoc groups of people to get the man work done, and is focused on enabling people to do what needs to be done? Is there a precedent for a living policy that can be easily changed by the people who perform the actions that are guided by the policy? I want people to feel more empowered than constrained, and I want it to be easy to use resources to help others quickly. Agile would be the word.

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Hey, I run the place.

6 thoughts on “Role reversal”

  1. I don’t have any specific advice, but I do have a potential resource. I really admire the way Frontiers handles their teams on the field. They seem to have a great structure that enables, rather than limits the flexibilty of thier field members. They are also very friendly and would probably be happy to share their policy secrets.

  2. I think I will look into that. NTM modeled some good policy as well, and I have gleaned both good and bad impressions from other missions and churches we have come in contact with. Does New Heart have a missions policy? I know they are very active in that way, and would be curious what they have cooked up.

    I am thinking about setting up an open forum to put together a collaborative policy creation place, but it might be more work than it is worth

  3. I think New Heart may be a good resource, as well. I can’t think of who is in charge of the missions department right now, since the leaders all end up going overseas and staying. But I can find out. Also, you can look for that info at, although it may not be current.

  4. Thanks Ariana. I will probably look them up via the website and email someone. I have till January sometime so there is not a huge hurry.

  5. I’d also suggest getting hold of a copy of Postmission, edited by Richard Tiplady. It ha some advice about creating mission structures and mission support structures that would probably fit the way you think.

    My view, as an unrepentant Bosch-supporter, would be something like this: “the mission policy of any church or parachurch organisation should be to facilitate the global mission of the Church, and to enable members to find their place in that mission”. That’s the big picture. Normally the next thing you write is how you’re going to achieve the big picture. And here’s the secret: don’t.

    Instead, think about the possible ways that people are going to react to that. Some guy finds his place in the Church’s mission is in Venezuela. How does he get there? A neighbouring church wants to get together to help shelter the homeless. A bunch of people get a heart for speaking up for justice in the local community. How can you encourage, support and develop all of these things? This is what forms your policy – the policy defines the means by which you are going to incubate ideas and support them to fruition, not the ideas themselves.

    The trick is not to create a policy that everyone runs after and follows, but to create a policy that is happy to run after everyone and pick up on what they’re doing. After all, the people that you’re going to have at the sharp end of mission have enough goals of their own; you want to be championing their goals, instead of creating separate ones.

  6. As I teach, students are always asking me about specific criteria on specific assignments… and it gets kind of myopic. My big goal for them is to walk out with a strong portfolio, so if an image doesn’t meet a single tedious criteria but serves to strengthen their portfolio, they have moved forward and are meeting my goals for them.

    I think with your task, as Simon has very clearly stated, keep the big picture in mind… maybe the management of the smaller stuff can be “guidelines” that are recommended, but not the end all. Flexible. I like the word enabling over managing.

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