EVANGELISM

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Starting the new year out right asks us to reconsider how we prioritize!

In the worlds of sociology and psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules proposed to explain how people make decisions and solve problems, typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. The field of study explains how we make use of “satisficing” – situations where people seek solutions or accept choices or judgments that are “good enough” for their purposes, but could be optimized.

Of course, in situations exposing us to high risk, ignoring relevant information is probably folly. But this is not so in a world of uncertainty. A world of uncertainty includes the presence of chaos. In moving from risk to uncertainty, we move from many moving parts to a scenario of moving parts each with their own motivations and force fields. Scientists can now show that, in this case, if you try to anticipate all of the factors or the “variables” of chaos, you are likely to make a poor choice.

Let’s assume that you resist the typical urge to “control” these variables in an attempt to minimize chaos, OK? Let’s assume that we already have tools at our disposal for managing this complex work of prioritizing our efforts, our energies, and our focus.

Baseball outfielders and transformative leaders both struggle to explain the decision making processes they use to catch a deep field fly ball or to initiate and sustain a vibrant faith community. It is often such an intuitive process that when scientists attempt to explain it, they often over-analyze the constituent steps and make the process unrealistically complex.

The Gaze Heuristic is an explanation of a remarkably intuitive and simple (not easy) process. The gaze heuristic is a adaptive mental process employed by individuals when trying to catch a ball. Experimental studies have shown that even the smartest of sports brains do not calculate windage, velocity, acceleration and spin before running to the predicted point of landing. Instead, they fixate the ball with their eyes and move so as to keep the angle of the gaze either constant or within a specific range. Moving in such a fashion assures that the ball will hit the catcher.

It was this same heuristic that allowed the pilot to save a jetful of passengers during the Miracle on the Hudson’s Flight 1549. Chesley Sullenberger had to determine whether or not they could make it back to LaGuardia with no engines. They had very little time – certainly not enough to calculate the flight trajectory of a jet with a full payload of fuel and passengers. Guess how this experienced pilot made the calculations! He looked through the cockpit windshield at the distant air traffic control tower of the airport they’d just left. He knew that if the image of the the tower rises higher on their horizon, beyond a certain point, they would not make it – they would crash. In that event, they would have to find the best spot to make an emergency landing in a very populated area. Fortunately, the entire crew and all 150 passengers survived! When asked later, “Sully” explained that everything in him made it clear that he needed to ignore all the warning bells and the gauges and use everything he had to guide the plane to a safe emergency landing. The point was not to interpret all of the data. The point was to choose best outcomes. He was using one simple heuristic – the same one that the outfielder or the trained dog uses in catching the ball!

So, here at the start of 2014, how will you manage all of the data and the variables and live in the presence of chaos? Will you give in to the temptation to “control” or will you find your own chaordic path?

Some questions to consider, together:

What do you believe we might learn from this Gaze Heuristic parallel in the world of prioritizing our ministry efforts?

What might be the equivalent of the air traffic control tower on your horizon?

When you look back at the Core Values you have been using in your 90 Day Micro-strategies, which one or two is foundational for your measure of success, on an ongoing basis?

How might you adjust the way you manage all of the variables (maybe even the “chaos”) of your ministry environment?

What metrics might you focus on, to the exclusion of the ball’s windage, velocity, acceleration and spin?

____  Engagement?

____  Joy Index?

____  Laughter Meter?

____  Fun Factor?

____  Ratio of Chit Chat to Hear to Heart conversations?

____  Ratio of insider ministries to outsider ministries?

____  Others?

Starting the new year out right asks us to reconsider how we prioritize! In the worlds of sociology and psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules proposed to explain how people make decisions and solve problems, typically when facing

This is an accumulated list of questions and responses from ministry leaders across the Episcopal Church. We will update this list with fresh questions and discerned responses, as they come to us.

 

1.) After reading the application, my question is, must this be a new ministry?  We have a ministry in place that needs to be expanded or perhaps we have laid groundwork for a new ministry.  Can you give me some guidance about this?

Response: Resolution AO73 asks that “each Mission Enterprise Zone feature a strategic plan to start or redevelop a congregation that is intentionally multi-cultural, incorporating the presence and leadership of under-represented generations, socio-economic groups, races, ethnicities and/or languages…” So the resolution makes room for both of the options you’ve named: starting a new ministry as well as redeveloping an existing ministry, as long as that congregation can demonstrate the collective commitment to incorporate the PRESENCE and LEADERSHIP of under-represented generations, socio-economic groups, races, ethnicities and/or languages. We have so many Episcopal Churches that would experience some measure of benefit from expansion or revitalization. This funding is for those ministries that can offer a strategic plan to live fully into AO73’s description.

2.) The application form is all online. Do I need to complete it all in one sitting and then send it in?

Response: No, you can print out the PDF form as a guide for your fact-finding and planning process, here. The online form has all of the help dialogue attached to each field that you can actually treat as a tutorial for each of the questions. I would print out the PDF version and then gather up all of the information. Try to have all of the information available and in a Word Document so that you can copy and paste your answers in the dialogue boxes.

3.) We want to start to start a ministry with Latino Hispanic peoples and physically build a church since we have been given land. Can these Mission Enterprise Funds be used for “bricks and mortar?”

Response: Because so many of our dioceses have no money for the other costs of new ministry development, this might not rank as a high priority application. Many of the applications coming in are asking for help with funding leadership and organizing/planting/gathering community skills. The answer to your question is not a “No!” It’s just a reminder that the hope was to offer funding in places where there was no funding available outside of this 1st Mark of Mission possibility.

4.) What about forming a new Spanish-speaking congregation at the facilities of an inner city Anglo church?

Response: This scenario you are describing sounds like a good fit for matching funds from the 1st Mark of Mission Fund. Reverend Anthony Guillen is ready to consult with you and share our best learnings for ministry ventures like these from across the Episcopal Church, as well as the Lutheran Church. You can reach Anthony at aguillen@episcopalchurch.org

5.) I would like to know whether each diocese can only partner with one congregation or more than one in the matching grant of 1st Mark funding and partnership.

Response: Resolution AO73 calls for Enterprise “zones.” The zone can be “defined as a geographic area, as a group of congregations or as an entire diocese.” In other words, you as spiritual leaders are encouraged to ask, “How are we called to bless what the Spirit’s up to in our context? What kind of a networked approach to ministry collaboration would serve this best?” Tell us that you hosted this discerning conversation and then let us know how we might partner with you!

6.) Is it possible to present a proposal which involves inter-diocesan (e.g. three dioceses) collaboration for a missioner for marginal communities (e.g. Hmong & Southeast Asian communities scattered as neighborhood clusters in random diocesan contexts?)

Response: Not only is it possible – it is being encouraged! We are also pursuing ecumenical partnerships (inter-denominational) and inter-faith partnerships! The goal here is to join God in “mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.” The hope is that we can demonstrate the practices of mission and evangelism more than the development of resources or the creation of positions. I personally would hope that if a missioner position is funded, it is for the sake of sponsoring and sustaining worshipping communities in those neighborhood clusters. I also would hope that we offer comprehensive reflection and observation on what we are to learn from leaders in these Hmong & Southeast Asian communities!

7.) The maximum match that a qualified diocese and congregation can receive is up to $100/diocese. T or F?

Response: T

8.) Are funds available for funding a weekend coffee house in a rural setting with no liturgical presence within a 50 mile circle that contains 34,000 people?

Response: As long as it is “intentionally multi-cultural, incorporating the presence and leadership of under-represented generations, socio-economic groups, races, ethnicities and/or languages…”

9.) Does re-planting a church count as a new church start? (We are basically planting a new church out of an old one.)

Response: Yes, it can. The plan and the actual strategy proposed in the application will verify for the Executive Council subcommittee that this is a New Church Start, instead of a redevelopment.

10.) So can the diocese start up a mission enterprise zone in parallel with congregations that want to be planted or replanted? Then the question is, if one requests $, can those funds be used for mission enterprise zone and the "more than one plant or redevelopment"?

Response: Yes, as long as the plan is to offer ministry with “under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement,” this sounds like an ideal “zone.”

11.) I get the point of having matching grants as far as diocesan buy-in is concerned. What about underfunded dioceses, however? How does this avoid being a rich get richer and poor stay poorer situation?

Response: two weeks ago, my colleagues at the Episcopal Church Center reminded me that the original hopes for this 1st Mark of Mission funding were to fund ministry in places where it could not normally happen for the lack of local resources. If you are in a setting where you will struggle to raise the matching funds, let’s have a conversation. Invite your Bishop or your Diocesan Leadership team to contact Tom Brackett at tbrackett@episcopalchurch.org and let’s explore creative approaches to make the funding happen. We would like nothing more than to discover with you the loaves and fishes that will be transformed into food enough for the 5000! (I read about that somewhere … !)

12.) For those of us who are getting established in a new context right now or would need a bit more time than between now and Sept 28 to find partners and funding, is there another grant cycle this triennium?

Response: After collaboration with our Lutheran peers, we have decided to make this a “rolling application” process. We will continue to receive applications after the Executive Council meets in October. Our hope is to release funding as soon after review as possible. In short, the rest of the triennium will be “open season” until the funds run out. The sooner you apply, the more likely it is that there will be funds to release.

13.) Is a new community alongside an existing community a 'plant?’

Response: It could well be. Whether or not it qualifies for AO73’s description of a MEZ or a New Church Start depends on how it plans to live into this call!

14.) Do entitled, post-Christian, spiritual-but-not-religious, Californians count as an under-represented group in the Episcopal Church?

Response: Please don't be limited by the idea of "under-represented groups." People who don't go to church -- never did or left a while ago -- are absolutely people with whom we need to be in relationship.

This is an accumulated list of questions and responses from ministry leaders across the Episcopal Church. We will update this list with fresh questions and discerned responses, as they come to us.   1.) After reading the application, my question is