A PARTICIPATORY CORPS
In the previous three blog pieces we thought about a fit-for-mission corps as:
The next letter in ‘corps’ is ‘P’, which stands for ‘Participatory’. What I mean by a participatory corps is one where as many people as possible are encouraged and enabled to take part.
Some years ago Colonel David Guy wrote: ‘In the early days of Methodism evangelism was regarded as the work of every member. With the passing of time it was no longer the responsibility of every member but of the class leader, minister and visiting preacher. Then of the minister only, then of the visiting revivalist, and then of nobody. God forbid that The Salvation Army should ever be compelled to admit a similar declension’. Unfortunately, in many places, we have to admit just that. And it’s not just in evangelism – participation of every kind is often lacking. What we need are corps where everyone has the maximum opportunity to get involved.
Being participatory is not just about every-member ministry. It’s also about participation in leadership and decision-making. Contemporary writers on leadership say that the current need is for participatory/collaborative leadership. That is a style of leadership where the decision-making process is shared.
Dr Tim Elmore traces the way leadership styles have evolved over the past fifty years. In the 1950s the ‘military commander’ style predominated. This was top-down leadership that demanded loyalty. By the late 1960s the new leadership image was the Chief Executive Officer who had to cast a vision and persuade people to follow it. In the 1980s the entrepreneurial style of leadership developed, characterised by innovation and creativity. By 1990s the leader was more often seen as a coach, ensuring that team members found a role which made best use of their strengths and skills. Elmore sees a new kind of leader as more appropriate for the twenty-first century. He calls this the poet/gardener leader. As a poet puts words to what others think and feel, so a poet-leader articulates the thoughts of the leadership team as they discern the leadings of the Spirit. And in the same way that gardeners cultivate the soil and create an environment where plants can grow, the gardener-leader develops, equips and empowers people.
A participatory corps is one where the load is spread – where everyone is encouraged to use their gifts and where the leaders work, pray and talk together to discern God’s will. That’s a fit-for-mission corps!
Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts
Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland