Wednesday, 5 August 2015

New leadership training already showing “first fruits” in Church of England

The Bishop of Ely has said that “The delivery of new training programmes for senior leaders in the Church of England is already bearing fruit.” Details are in this blog by the bishop and in this press release.

New leadership training already showing “first fruits” in Church of England
04 August 2015

The delivery of new training programmes for senior leaders in the Church of England is already bearing fruit, according to the senior bishop overseeing the programme.

Writing in the first of a series of blogs reflecting on Leadership and Development training, Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, who chairs the Development and Appointments Group of the House of Bishops, said that feedback from those having attended the courses “has been extremely positive and we feel blessed for the fruits it is already bearing.”

The first leadership programme for cathedral deans and leaders of greater churches held in March at Judge Business School in Cambridge, included remarks by one participant who observed that it had been “by a country mile, the most impressive course I have under taken in over 30 years of ordained ministry”. Another said, “Overall this has been an outstanding week, both in content and shape. Of course, there has been much value in conversations, etc., but the stand-out feature has been the sessions, with speakers of very high quality, genuinely addressing core issues for this very specific audience”.

As a result of the positive feedback, a repeat of the programme next year has been requested for those unable to attend in March, whilst seminars on some of the key themes will be run in due course for members of the cathedral teams.

The new modular development programmes for bishops have also attracted encouraging feedback, Bishop Stephen said, with 18 bishops gathering at Leicester’s Cathedral Centre earlier this year for the first module with one bishop commenting that the first module was “probably the best piece of in-service training I’ve had since I was a Team Vicar in the 1980s”.

The first meeting of the new Learning Community in July, to help prepare those who might take on wider responsibilities in the future, has also received generous feedback with one participant reflecting on how the training would have an immediate impact on their parish ministry: “The models and insights offered were very helpful, but grounded in practice and in the reality of church, and the balance of presentation, reflection and group work was just right in my view… I haven’t been so enthused and inspired for a long time”.

The full text of Bishop Stephen’s blog is here and is copied below the fold.

First Fruits

We are making real progress in the journey to equip our senior leaders for the role and responsibilities to which they are called and to prepare those who might take on wider responsibility in the future. The first in a series of blogs sharing the first fruits of that endeavour

There was not enough time during the productive Synod debate on Leadership last month to share how the new leadership programmes are actually being received. In spite of the uneasiness that some have felt around the tone and style of this new departure, the reality has been extremely positive and we feel blessed for the fruits it is already bearing.

The months leading up to Synod had seen the first of the Leadership Programmes for Cathedral Deans. The 19 deans and 9 leaders of greater churches who attended the programme in March at the Judge Business School in Cambridge found great value in the learning experience: This has been, by a country mile, the most impressive course I have undertaken in over 30 years of ordained ministry, one observed. Fears that management speak would be untranslatable to the world of the Church and theology were unfounded. Another said, Overall this has been an outstanding week, both in content and shape. Of course, there has been much value in conversations, etc., but the stand-out feature has been the sessions, with speakers of very high quality, genuinely addressing core issues for this very specific audience.

Perhaps the best testament to the usefulness of the programme is the fact that many of those who did not sign up for the first session have requested that we repeat the programme in 2016; we will also in due course be running seminars on some of the key themes of the programme, for members of the Cathedral teams.

Soon after the Deans programme, eighteen bishops gathered in Leicesters Cathedral Centre for the new modular development programmes for bishops. After just one module, it is too early to gauge the impact of the learning but we are encouraged by the bishops sense of being helpfully disrupted in their thinking and finding that the programme had opened up whole vistas. We are heartened that the quality of the programmes was widely appreciated: Probably the best piece of in-service training I’ve had since I was a Team Vicar in the 1980’s.

It was then from Leicester to Lambeth for the launch of a new Learning Community of those discerned as having the gifts and the calling to move into wider responsibility in the future. Once again, we were encouraged by the gracious way in which those who were offered a place this time and those who werent found the process to be helpful and affirming. An inspirational first day of development on Organisational Leadership was welcomed by participants with further generous feedback: The models and insights offered were very helpful, but grounded in practice and in the reality of church, and the balance of presentation, reflection and group work was just right in my view I haven’t been so enthused and inspired for a long time. And, more starkly, it’s like finding water in a desert.

Such has been the appreciation from those undertaking their learning development journey that I’m reminded of Archbishop Justin’s reflection that without this provision we put unreasonable stress on those in positions of leadership, neglecting to love them as we are called to do.

In September the new Learning Community gathers in Canterbury for a residential module and a conversation with the Archbishop. The reading list for the group will include the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) report Senior Church Leadership A Resource for Reflection - I’ll look forward to updating you then. We look forward to welcoming new members as the community grows in the coming years.

Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely

Bishop Stephen chairs the Development and Appointments Group (DAG) of the House of Bishops, serving the continuing training and development of existing senior clergy and the nurture of future senior leaders.

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Comments

The fact that participants found it useful and high quality does not meet the question some of us are putting: where is the reflection on practice here? We need leaders who are theologically reflective practitioners, not just skilled technicians.

Nor does the quality of the training offset the shabby way the thing was initiated. Good leaders collaborate not dictate!

Posted by: Charles Read on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 11:49am BST

Has my invitation to attend the best course since the invention of sliced bread been lost in the post by any chance?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 11:57am BST

It sounds a bit like the 'Sandhurst' concept of Officer training, mixed with blurb from a Henley MBA course, and all packaged with delightful spin and self-praise for the course.

We are living in an increasingly stratified society, where the business leaders and elite seem to have a sense of entitlement, and where 'some are born to lead' is epitomised by a government led by Old Etonians.

I feel uncomfortable with this commodification and corporate management of what was once an organisation of itinerants, from Jesus onwards, operating outside the buildings and religious establishments, and expressing spirituality as a matter of the heart and soul and straightforward practical love.

Perhaps these courses - and these identified 'future leaders' - are needed for the Church. However, I'd prefer to see our leaders exploring silence, learning about community from some of our religious houses, and selling up their diocesan palaces.

It just 'feels' like Justin is aligning the Church with the corporate world into which he was launched from Eton. It all feels and sounds like management-speak.

Therefore, I am reserved about the claims of the Bishop of Ely, albeit I know I am 'reacting', may be mistaken, and that there is a balance of needs in these things.

Community is not a business model.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 3:24pm BST

I agree with Charles. And the fact that the courses are being so positively received is not quite the same as the claim to be 'bearing fruit' - that needs a bit longer to assess surely? And would it possible to commend new initiatives without denigrating what has gone before? There was - and still is - a lot of very good resourcing going on. But none of it can command the size of budget being thrown at this initiative.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 4:10pm BST

In the true spirit of openness and transparency, are we allowed to know the names of those who are invited to attend these management courses? It would be good to know who are the potential leaders of the society once founded by the humble carpenter of Nazareth, who is eligible to swim in the talent pool and who are the future ecclesiastical elite?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 5:18pm BST

Positive feedback from the participants may be of limited value. Those selected have already been earmarked for possible promotion. Will they jeopardise that by saying the course wasn't much good? Alternatively, the comment that this was the best in-service training for 30 years could be a reflection on the general quality of in-service training! In my curacy, every piece of training I attended was a complete waste of time. As a school chaplain I have found educational INSET has been much more valuable.

Posted by: NJ on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 5:57pm BST

All quite irrelevant to my parishioners except that they must dig deeper into their reserves to help pay for the chosen few to add more bullet points to their CVs, I fear I am past frustration.

Posted by: Fr William on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 5:59pm BST

I would like to see some really good quality training for leaders of small and medium-sized churches like mine (ASA 60 - 70 ish,village church deeply embedded in its community, but with few resources of money or manpower). Even with growth, which we are seeing, it is unlikely to beciome a mega-church, and would lose the very character which draws peoplke to it if it did. The challenges and struggles in these sort of churches are completely different, but no less important for the future of the Church, especially as they make up the bulk of the C of E. A lot of us are having to lead churches where there are few people willing or able to take on skilled lay ministries like preaching or youth work, or indeed any ministries at all. We are told we should delegate, but to whom? If the job needs doing and there's no one to do it, we have to, or leave it undone.
At a recent training session on working with volunteers in my diocese we were asked what we wanted from the session. I asked for tips on getting those who say they will do something actually to do so. The course leader just laughed and said that if she knew that she would be a rich woman. These courses for people in "greater" churches are all very well, but they already have resources, and often paid staff. I'm sure they are very challenging to lead, but the skills of leadership in a small church can be just as complex in different ways, and much harder to transfer skills from business leadership into. Leading a small church requires huge personal creativity and a great range of hands-on skills, as well as subtle discernment and the ability to keep going when there are precious few visible signs of success. I have realised that while I don't want to be a one woman band, I do need to be able to play all the "instruments", stepping in where needed to plug gaps or initiate things which I would get nowhere near in a large church. I served my first curacy in a large church, so I know whereof I speak. I have often found, however, that newly ordained curates often assume that they shouldn't be doing the hands-on stuff and haven't got the first idea of how to, especially if they have come (as so many have) from large churches.
Leadership training which focuses on managing others won't cut it in many of our small churches - the average parish is probably more like pioneer ministry these days - lots of direct contact with people who have absolutely no knowledge of faith - I love it and wouldn't swap it, but it is no picnic.
It would be good to see this kind of ministry affirmed with training that takes it seriously and respects those who choose not to go for the status that seems to come with leading large churches or cathedrals.

Posted by: Anne on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 6:04pm BST

Prompted in part by our reflections on the new national training programmes for senior leaders, the Diocese of Salisbury is currently exploring a new approach to leadership development too. We want to provide something open access which will benefit a wide cross section of people, recognising that authentically Christian leadership is 'shared' , rather than vested in a small number of individuals. We have identified the following underpinning principles. Whatever we do should:


o Take vocation as its starting point

o Identify leadership as first and foremost a spiritual task

o Include lay and ordained people, learning together as far as possible

o Honour prior learning and experience

o Provide for diverse styles of learning and engagement

o Be attentive to context

o Articulate with ministry review/ appraisal or similar

o Strike a balance between building on strengths and addressing weaknesses

o Hold together person centred and task centred approaches to leadership

o Draw deeply from the Church’s own wells of spiritual wisdom and experience while also being open to insights and good practice from secular organisations and professions


There are some points of similarity with what is being provided nationally and also some obvious differences.

Posted by: Jane Charman on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 7:14pm BST

Anne's comments are spot-on. To them that have shall be given more. Perhaps the businessmen in charge wish to emulate a Thatcherite trickle down philosophy. The trouble with donning other people's (institutions') clothes is that one also acquires their parasites. And those institutions are now casting off those clothes (and parasites).

Posted by: Fr William on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 8:43pm BST

It would still be wise to reserve judgement on the effectiveness of these new courses. It is true that many (but not all) attending have been initially enthusiastic. But there is little in the curricula seen so far to suggest that INSEAD and Judge are offering much more than standard 'off the peg' business school lectures and seminars. This will be new - and a breath of fresh air - to those who have not encountered business school styles of teaching and learning before. However, those participating are also reporting scant theological input. Questions of 'fit' remain. Spending the inside of a week discussing and debating how secular companies conduct their business (whether well or badly) will always have a limited impact on how our ecclesial polity is both formed and reformed.

Posted by: Martyn Percy on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 9:27pm BST

Clearly, a programme for the special few who are considered, by this experience, to be 'managers' of the Church. But what is the pastoral component?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 10:36pm BST

I'm delighted that those (or according to Martyn Percy many of those) who are receiving some new, expertly designed and concomitantly expensive training are finding it worth the Church Commissioners' significant £2,000,000 investment.

I wonder if this will encourage them to think that other clergy are worth investing money and training in, or whether us plebs will be told to be satisfied and grateful for the 1% (or less) of stipend that is the typical diocesan investment in their clergy CPD.

In the world of professional training, <£240 buys you peanuts. Presumably, the majority of clergy continue to be thought of as monkeys.

Posted by: Doug Chaplin on Wednesday, 5 August 2015 at 11:38pm BST

Already bearing fruit? What fast growing fruit trees! If I did not know this was a real program sponsored by the Church of England, I'd think it was parody. A great deal of funding is allocated for cathedral deans, leaders of "greater churches", and bishops to participate in business school courses, but to what purpose? What is the end game? What about the "lesser churches"? Maybe it's just that I don't understand. Maybe this program is all good, but from the rest of the comments, it seems I am not alone.

Posted by: June Butler on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 2:01am BST

It's good to hear that those who attended the courses have found them useful, however it would be surprising to hear that those who had been selected as potential future leaders would say anything else, given that, presumably, they would want to stay as potential future leaders in our new shiny corporate CofE. But, be that as it may, this is still spin intended to mollify the masses as there has been little attempt so far to explain why it is thought necessary to ditch 2000 years of thinking and training and replace it with a drawdown from an MBA course intended for more of the bonus driven types who have in recent times destroyed whole countries and brought millions into poverty. If the support for Jeremy Corbyn tells us nothing else it's surely that people are fed up with all that and want a return to community based values.

Posted by: PMD on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 7:57am BST

I'm glad those attending the course have found it useful.
Whether it bears fruit or not will be seen by what these people do with the things they have learned and to what effect they do it.
It may just take a little longer to assess that outcome.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 9:34am BST

I don't see these "first fruits" as encouraging. It would be surprising if expensive professional educators did not generate positive feedback from participants. As noted they're not addressing average clergy day-to-day concerns. But neither are they addressing the disconnect between church (clergy and lay) perceptions of what the church is and does, and how it comes across to those "on the outside".

The C of E survives on the back of personal credibility and goodwill towards many clergy and active lay members. At a personal level, this still manages to override incomprehension, and therefore mistrust, of an institution that can no longer explain itself in terms most people understand. An ancient mystical framework that wraps spiritual realities and philosophical truths in historical religion has lost its magic; it no longer "works" in most contexts. If we want a viable C of E to recover and grow, those of us who value those realities and truths have to find a new theological language (and I suspect step away from the old).

Posted by: David Marshall on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 11:00am BST

Plenty has been said about the need to have this training undergirded with theology, so I won't mention that, but here are a few things missing from management training in the Church of England as I see it:
Promoting Equality and Diversity & the Equality Act 2010
Dealing with Bullying and Stress
Occupational Health and Safety and Welfare at Work
Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures (understanding them and sticking to them)
Reflective practice
Action research
Teaching skills / pedagogy
Working with others (especially volunteers) and Community Organising.

All of these are available elsewhere in one form or another, either through Unite the Union, or the Freire Institute www.freire.org

Posted by: Adrian Judd on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 12:02pm BST

If it is not possible to know who has been invited to attend these expensive courses and who are the potential future leaders of the national church, would it be possible to have sight of the curriculum that is being followed? If this request is made manifest then knowing what the future elite are being taught might alleviate some of the fears and concerns expressed by many as to what possibly might be missing from the course, for example theology and efficient pastoral oversight.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 12:27pm BST

Adrian Judd makes a good point on The Freire Institute. Alas, I doubt any of our executive managers leading the CofE from London will have ever heard of Paulo Freire. Or will know about the work of the institute, which is of course, dedicated to shaping and forming community educators, activists, organizers and change agents.

The marginalisation of theology - and indeed, any kind of real critical pedagogy - by our central management has meant that we lose the capacity for key thinkers such as Freire to form any serious theological basis in which structural changes could be rooted. So, the business schools can continue to provide interesting seeds to plant, and which undoubtedly have the potential to become fruit. But the church, meanwhile does not invest in enriching the kind of 'theological soil' that Freire's work (and others) would provide. There is a parable here, I think.

Posted by: Martyn Percy on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 1:13pm BST

Isn't theology for theologically conservative anglicans effectively settled, at least in its foundations? Significant innovation beyond a tweak of emphasis here and there is the definition if not of heresy then of danger to be avoided.

I don't think any serious attempt at building an open, affirming C of E can avoid facing up to the gaping holes in traditional evangelical and catholic theology. God doesn't live there anymore, except in the minds of what are now small minorities who like that particular kind of religion. I think management-speak and business school courses are a convenient smoke-screen, a distraction that diverts attention away from the basics, the real reason for decline.

Introducing people to Jesus as if he were a physical presence in the room; speaking of bread and wine as if it were some other-worldly body of Christ; these are expressions of genuine personal faith that become anachronisms when used as contemporary articles of religion. A credible national Church has to be able to say officially, yes, some of us believe Jesus is alive today, but some of us don't. Some of us read the Christian stories differently, and think of God in other ways.

Posted by: David Marshall on Thursday, 6 August 2015 at 7:51pm BST

It's interesting that everything on Adrian Judd's list is precisely what is expected of lead chaplains in the NHS and which makes it such a great culture to work in.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 7 August 2015 at 7:37am BST

Having trained ordinands for some years, I have long argued that leadership training should be included as part of the curricula, this will ensure that ordinands have an opportunity to integrate and respond critically to the material on offer over a period of years. It is no doubt thought provoking material which spans over a century of reflection and consideration of leadership and its aspects. Few will find it dull, it can be inspiring and thought provoking and will help participants to make changes to their leadership styles and content.

Posted by: jeremy Forbes on Monday, 10 August 2015 at 2:32pm BST

The cynicism here is sickening.

Posted by: Matt on Thursday, 6 October 2016 at 2:42pm BST
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