In this paper, I seek to draw out the experiences that have led to my increasing use of a complexities approach in consultancy as a Mission Enabler in the Methodist Church. Some of this will be by way of personal experience and reflection and some by reflection on academic literature, especially that studied recently as part of an MA course in Consultancy for Mission and Ministry’ at York St. John University.
- The early influences on my approach
All of my initial academic training, through my first degree in Chemistry, initial ministerial formation at Wesley College, Bristol, and training with ADMINISTRY, Luton Industrial College and others had taught me to think logically and to solve problems in a particular way – using a very linear form of logic.
Training in pastoral studies, preaching etc., were seen as every bit as logical and linear as the science that I had been taught and was teaching for the first six years of my working life. Yet, all of that time, I was conscious that many of the great scientific discoveries came about by people who were able to think outside that box.
After five years of circuit ministry I began to realise that the church is a community of people who don’t usually think and work in that linear way. Relationships are much more complex than that. The work of Charles Handy (Handy, The Age of Unreason, 1989) (Handy, The Empty Raincoat, 1994) helped me to recognise that there were other, less linear forms of thinking that were being used in the philosophical treatment of business organisations, (Handy thinks much more in terms of network than hierarchy) but it wasn’t really for another ten years that these more networked ways of thinking began to coalesce for me in terms of the way in which I facilitate change within Churches and circuits.