Design Days stage

Dear Design Days friends –

Here are my notes from the Friday and Saturday sessions led by Alan Roxburgh and Craig Van Gelder at St Louis Temple.  A little messy but might be helpful.



Introductions of participants.


Craig Van Gelder – Luke 10:1-12.  What is the harvest?  When Jesus’ instructions seem to be for … oh, I see.  What exactly are the followers being instructed to harvest?

The sharing of peace.  Is it there?  Those who share in peace.

A presentation on what the UMC currently is conceived to be

Technical and adaptive change:  contrasting approaches.

Alan asked Gail and Sara to walk us through the design and the steps from whence it came.  Mentioned prior Toronto experience; nature of ‘process’.

Gail:  tasked?  Trained personnel for TSA in urban settings.  Referenced personal experience.  Plus, innovation.  What blocks our urban work via SA.

Sara:  Temple Houses.  Training, eww.

Practitioner.  Community.  Innovation.  Three components of UMC.

Innovation … [is this an expression of sabbath, per space and time?]

So, the concrete stuff of the UMC?  Temple Houses and community.  Community development in Benton Park West.  A Gail digression.  The UMC proposal.  Paul:  “more flexible ways of SA expression” but aligned with SA mission and values.  AJ:  yes, SA is the same wherever, but defined by the community’s context.  Paul:  “the difference is the strategies … how do we ___ in an urban setting?”  Nicole:  SA identity determined by context level; i.e. regional, city, neighborhood.  Strategy, determined per context.  Aaron:  fidelity; what is it regarding TSA?  Javier:  trust the horse (bridle and bit).


Understanding Missional Leadership (Roxburgh)

What is ‘missional’.

UMC three areas:  urban. Training. Imagination.  “dive in”; new language.

Urban – neighborhood, community, associations, partnerships, etc.   To whit:  “a whole lot of relationality going on … the driving imagination behind everything else … high value.”

Training – hesitancy; but TSA has training manuals (!)  Noted:  this is where SA/organization language rose.  ‘bridle and bit’; rules.  “client”:  how does engage relationality?  Different language:  formation; build around values and relationality (what is on the ground).  The trap of ‘training’ per ‘client’, ‘expert’, ‘events’, etc.  [the formation of missional leaders].  Formation is about cultivating a community of discernment (discovering together).  “not good or bad”, right or wrong [ethics per ‘the will of God’ which is a discerning domain]

Innovation – creating environments of discerning “what God’s up to” in neighborhoods, etc.  experiment:  “we’re not sure, but we’ve got some clues”.  The creation of learning communities.

Thus, dwelling is the base.  Processes of discerning.

Current status:  pretty solid on dwelling/relationality/urban.  All else, pretty unclear.  [the early story of Steve and Ketsia in Arsenal neighborhood, available houses, a DC open to new/urban]

What is ‘missional’.  Implications for TSA.  A peek behind the door of ‘identity’.  ‘client’ based, in its place, valuable.  For relationality, not so.


Three zones.  Green:  spring.  Blue:  performative.  Red:  crisis.

Alan:  To the extent that leaders try to bring culture change, there will be no culture change.

Local, relationality.  This is green zone.  A vehicle needed:  British army.  A creative space for the Booths.  A model.  Model over time becomes the default.  Things flip.  Hierarchy created.  Blue zone, okay.  Red, nope.  Reexamine Booths’ story.

Missional leadership

Alan tells his story of deserting dog and pony circuit.  Lesslie Newbigin.  Discovers sit-in-the-village/get local.  His readings of scripture radically shaped by his experience.  Retires.  Train through southern Russia.  An awareness:  Christianity gone.  Conclusion:  we need to reenter ordinary spaces of people to find out what God is doing there.  Alan:  “first conversion”.  Second conversion:  ‘everything is Greek’.  Not the missional question!  Missional is about the fact that God is the primary actor/agent in the world about us.  Third conversion:  how is God the primary agent …?  Incarnation.  Present.  In the particularity of local, ordinary, everyday of Jesus.  Fourth conversion:  Trinity, in that God’s fundamental nature is relationality.

What is missional?

Missional – Ezekiel’s dream of colored wheels.  Not the temple, no more.  Instead, the brook.  Jeremiah 29.  What it all means?  The red zone is where to be.  Takes us to places where we are off the maps.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Narrative – exercise of matched pairs.  “We believe the Spirit of God is …” 40 words or less.  Narrative for UMC/elevator speech.

We believe the Spirit of God is providing an opportunity to create an urban mission center.  The center offers formation of missional leaders and builds them into a learning community to discern God’s will for his work in the city.



Design Days coffee time[Craig shared with me his dissertative work on urban/metropolitan systems]

Luke 10:1-12 reflection is of the kingdom near, in the healing an echo of Luke 4.  Reflection:  “deserves to be paid”.  [a significant number of reflections identified the kingdom]

The emerging design – Craig outlined the process of how/what they will now share.

Alan:  success of other centers?  Existent ‘dwelling’ dynamic.

Listen, now, per these criteria:

  1. How does it resonate with (or not) with what you are working with?
  2. Does this pick up heartbeat?
    1. What’s missing”
    2. What might be changed?

URBAN:  dwelling.  Part of the heartbeat, at the very center of what we are designing, is dwelling in this place, this neighborhood.  Relationality, community.  Jeremiah 29, “seek the welfare of …”.  Contra raiding parties.  Seek its welfare.  Luke 10, to dwell in the house, become part of.


IMAGINATION/CREATIVITY/INNOVATION:  discernment; how do we hear God’s imagination?

Overall all, a tension.  A good thing, yes.  But always figuring out the ‘sweet spot’.  Per Alan, tension of students in the URBAN, etc “in and out, in and out”.

Not so clear, formation.

Design a two year beta process, to help identify the unknowns which need to be addressed.  A chance to design something inviting those up, across and down in the process.

Questions –

  • What are the elements that sustain community in place?
  • What are the characteristics of a community that seeks the good of its community …?
  • Transformation: what is it?  How over two years do we figure out what is meant? Affecting ‘students’/’travelers’?
  • What is the interrelationship between those dwelling in community and ‘students’?
  • How do we attend to some of the critical relationships that are going to make an UMC thrive? To the local; how does the neighborhood see us? {a positive:  the existing Temple Corps]
  • The Corps: relationship between the UMC and the Corps, Temple and other Corps?  To prevent stillbirth.  How to invite participation of Corps in the project?
  • How do we design this is such a way that the Territory is not simply providing resources for a while, but becomes excited and engaged in the project, to whit, territorial ownership? What is the strategy?
  • What is meant by ‘adaptive’? adaptive learning?
  • What is ‘missional leadership’?
  • How do we get some space to pay attention to ‘language’? Alan’s serviette notes:  training, project, program, center, students, continuing ed for officers, etc.  These are SA defaults.  What is running underneath the identity statements.  The presets.  How do we design learning experiments to address defaults?

Two years to discover what UMC is to be –

Year One Year Two
Temple House/Corps “deeply invested in its neighborhood” [CCDA tenets]  invite people (Detroit, etc).

LISTEN via dwelling, in rather primitive ways.  How, to practice DISCERNMENT per ‘where is God already ahead of us?’  EXPERIMENT.  Jane, with Chinese, learning how to order Starbucks.  Potatoes, God, suicide … [Kelsie:  does this answer your incarnational question?]


What next?  What we did, learned, is critical.  Out of which emerges design.


Formation is part of this area.


Joining to learn what is going on [in the created space].  For a time the dwelling community.  Curriculum?  The above process.  Thin Places.

Action learning.  A process into which theological, biblical, sociological resources are brought in.  what are the critical skills needed for effective urban mission?


Formation is part …


… which is informed by Corps and ‘students’.

Woven into all the above categories


[an UMC walks SA and non-SA people through the process.  Put a team together to go through the process [incorporate this into the City Vision selection process].




December 19, 2016

<!–Notes ACF

Hi Gail and Sara –

I reread my prepared final words from two years ago; they help me to remember our time with Alan and Craig. 

I wonder “if” we can think of Temple Houses more as a missional community.  We have looked at it lately as a community of missional leaders, but could it be both?

As a missional community we focus on an inclusive drawing-in of all in mission, valuing and engaging all of us in our diversity and with our various gifts/strengths.  And a community lives and exists as a whole, not a collection.  

A community of missional leaders focuses on the nature of the community as a supportive place, engaging missional leaders in life experience and servant-leadership (Greenleaf).

Just more think-working




UMC Design Days Closure Remarks

I felt tired last night. But as I prepared my thoughts this morning for these closure remarks hope, inspiration emerged again. 

Reflections on Ferguson MO

[“Return to normal”

“Fix the underlying problems.”

“What are we going to do?”  Father Cavit.]

All, close. But slightly off.  Just enough to be unhelpful.  Familiarj to our challenge of missional leadership. 

What are we going to do?  Thank you for identifying and confirming the good foundation of ‘community’ which is an asset of the UMC.  Thank you for affirming the commitment of the UMC to ‘mission’ rather than to focus being the church on our own terms.  Bonhoeffer. 

Three things have caught my attention. 1) “formation” a helpful alternative for training with its manuals. 2)” managing up” which we need to take responsibility for and not to act the victim.  The daunting task of life together as the SA organization.  

3) Small steps toward change within the institution.  The nature of the kingdom is ‘near’ (Lk 10:11) and ‘leaven’ (Mt 13:20-21). 

The parable of parables. Drawing in the listener. 

Thank you for the two or three days of your time.  

A gift from a St Louis Advisory Board member made DD possible.  The support of our DC.  Ongoing.  As is the support of our territorial leaders.  

Finally, thank you for leading us as a ‘community of learners’ during these UMC Design Days. Mt 12:48 “who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Who are members of this community of learners?  Here around the tables.  Let us all continue to serve in this community. To draw in other brothers and sisters.  To commit to being a community seeking to discern the will of God as missional leaders, wherever we may be.  The UMC identity statement includes urban mission in all our cities, not just St Louis.  Chicago. Detroit.  

Let us pray. 

“The church is the place where Jesus Christ’s taking form is proclaimed and where it happens.”