Thursday, 1 May 2008

Art and Science in Ministry Development

The science aspect is easy to see: statistics, research, data, with advice and often detailed steps or procedures, with a subject matter that is on paper or a computer. The art aspect can be overlooked, involving rhythm and timing, inspiration, discernemtn and intuition, and the subject is people. We need both, and in an integrated fashion. To ignore the science would be to refuse to learn from the experience of others, and to eschew basic human insights available to us through statistics, etc. Ignoring the art of ministry development would be to treat people as ‘things’, and fall into the trap of thinking ministry development is the result of manipulation and the application of unbending rules. Ministry development, on the contrary, is the creative liaison of the whole of human research and knowledge, both material and spiritual. It follows no unbending rules, for the Spirit blows where it will. However, the freedom of the Spirit does not mean that research and experience cannot be the means to opening ourselves to that Spirit. It is art and science, spirit and matter.

It would be true to say that the more progressive side of the Diocese of Adelaide has been slow to take up this holistic approach. I can still remember viewing leadership and management techniques and knowledge with deep suspicion. Partly, the misuse of the science by some in the church gave ministry development and its ‘science’ a poor image. We must recognise the danger, inherent in the ‘science’ of ministry development, towards superficiality, as if applying this technique will bring growth, but ignoring the question of real and lived personal and corporate faith. But this should not blind us to its benefits. And we must practice the art of ministry, engaging with real people and bringing the science to bear for the benefit of the kingdom.

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