iVM in the Spotlight

“You are not alone.”  

These life giving words are like cool water to a parched spirit for many who serve in ministry – both clergy and laity alike. Living one’s faith and spirituality by serving in ministry is an opportunity for incredible joy as we learn with, from and about other people. We can stretch ourselves as we lean into the places and situations that challenge us, perhaps even where we feel a sense of anxiety. Every day can bring new experiences and discoveries as we embrace Community, Loving God and Neighbor, and the Eucharistic Life – the three legged stool of discipleship that we seek to live at the Missional Wisdom Foundation.

And, it can be really tough. The Institute for Vital Ministry (iVM) was founded to meet people in the midst of their ministry and be “companions on the journey.” This companionship from iVM emerges primarily through coaching, pastoral care and spiritual direction offered to individuals, groups, and ministry teams. At the Missional Wisdom Foundation, we like to say “Go out. Go Deep. Go together.” Missional is always contextual, and it is always relational. For those of us raised and trained by and in the mainline Christian traditions, this sometimes comes as surprising good news. MWF seeks to respond to proclaim this good news in a variety of ways, including incubating other nonprofits whose vision is complementary to our core. The Institute for Vital Ministry is one such organization.

The founder, Ken Crawford, has served for over 25 years across multiple denominations and in ecumenical settings, both congregational and nonprofit. Through his own experience, and the research and observation of peers and colleagues, he has developed several resources and processes that support flourishing and wholeness for lay leaders and clergy. His most recent work has been with clergy who trained for and served in settled pastorates, but have found themselves drawn out into multivocal expressions of their ministry that include congregational, non-profit, for-profit, and social entrepreneurship settings.

At the center of all the work at iVM is an understanding of what we call a “Synchronous Life” – one in which individuals and groups are able to see and pursue wholeness across all of life. We help people move beyond surviving to thriving in ministry by integrating the life-giving energy available in each facet of life into a harmonized system. Too often we live siloed rhythms where our professional, personal and private lives do not overlap – if we can at all help it. Unfortunately, living this way is exhausting, and robs us of the gifts that each domain of life can offer to the rest of who we are and who we are called to be. Drawing upon the skills of coaching, pastoral care, and spiritual direction, working with individuals and groups, we are here to accompany you, because we believe that “wherever your road leads… you don’t have to travel alone.”

You can learn more about the work of iVM and Ken’s ministry at www.iVitalMinistry.org. If you would like to explore working with a coach or spiritual director, please contact Ken at KCrawford(at)missionalwisdom.com.

* from the Missional Wisdom Foundation’s “Wisdom for the Way

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ABOUT:  Rev. Ken G. Crawford serves on staff with the Missional Wisdom Foundation as a holistic leadership and life coach to the people who work at The Mix Coworking. He is also part of the leadership team for Anam Cara. Ken was fortunate to work under the guidance of Elaine Heath who served as his DMin thesis advisor. 

Why Tiny Houses? OR… The Wisdom of Small Things

Or, The wisdom of small things…

kids-tree-houseOne of the great joys of childhood is to have a small, cozy, safe place – a club house, a tree house, a loft, a fort. Children are also quick to repurpose things they find lying around, and with a little imagination they become whomever they desire – the whole world opens to them. The world of children, and children themselves, teach us the wisdom of small things.

Reclaiming this wisdom of small things is one of the impulses that prompts people to explore Tiny House living. Many religious and spiritual traditions point to children in particular, and small things more generally, as sources and examples of wisdom. “Faith like a child.” “Faith like a mustard seed.” “A little child will lead them.” “There are four things that are little upon the earth, but that are exceedingly wise…” In Taoism, “te” may be understood as “the virute of the small.”

Tiny House living gives individuals an opportunity to free themselves from the encumberance of stuff and the burden of excess. A smaller house costs less to own, operate and maintain. This means less time is spent earning the money required to meet these obligations. It also requires less time to manage, clean and keep, freeing additional time. The self-imposed discipline of simplicity means limiting one’s possessions, though not necessarily living a spare or plain existence. A tiny house may have very fine finishes and furnishings, though they will be fewer and smaller. It may be a choice of “quality over quantity”.

Altering our relationship with the built environment,and with the other people who inhabit it, are two additional dynamics of tiny house living. Because of the unique nature of tiny house living (because it is out of the norm) those who choose such an adventure often find themselves in community with one another, learning from and supporting each other.  This echoes the cameraderie of any group of people who share a common interest, along with the mutual values of postmodern pioneers who see the inherent worth in sharing resources as an act of creation care and human flourishing.

A tiny house is often on wheels, and even if not, its relationship to the land is distinctly different from a traditional single family dwelling that is “permanently rooted” to a particular spot. The presumption of traditional single family homes is that “this is my house, and this is my yard” (A man’s [sic] home is his castle!). From a tiny house one gets both a freedom to venture out into the world, and a freedom from the notion that we can actually own the land upon which we stand or sleep. Tiny houses remind us both that the whole world is available to us, and that none of it actually belongs to us as a posession, but rather that we are intwined as fellow travelers on this earth with all of the other creatures. Tiny Houses are themselves entering into the mainstream consciousness by way of HTGV and other networks. And yet they are far from the norm, more a curiosity. Many viewers may be no more serious about living in a tiny house than they are about traveling to the places they see on Extreme Vacations. And yet any of us might listen to, learn from, and enact the wisdom of small things that we see in this movement.

13411690_280925552247229_1873914111324031838_oThe Missional Wisdom Foundation exists to practice and teach alternative expressions of community. This means that we find ourselves following a variety of paths into nontraditional (non-mainstream) ways of gathering and living. It means not so much that we reject the majority opinion, as that we want to experience and discover the wisdom found in other approaches. “Living Simply” is one such path, contrasting with so much that is dominant in our consumer oriented cultures and economies, both around and even within the church. Enter “The Tiny House.” For several years we have been experimenting with tiny houses as a way of imagining a deeply spiritual and communal way of living in harmony with oneself and the world. Whether we are building a house, imagining a community, or hosting houses alongside our other initiatives, we are seeking the wisdom in small things.


You can download a pdf version here – Why Tiny Houses – The wisdom of small things
Thanks to Beth Ann (BA) Norrgard – A Bed Over My Head – for consulting on this piece.
Treehouse photo unidentified – found on Pinterest.
Photo of three tiny houses credit BA Norrgard.

Coworking and the Reign of God

 

(UPDATED May 2017. NOTE: This essay was first written in September of 2014. Since then I have been fortunate to accompany The Missional Wisdom Foundation in the formation and launch of The Mix Coworking, and now to begin launching with others new coworking experiments in other congregations and locations. It describes my journey and those who have shaped my understandings of this way of being church and blessing the world.)

The Problems…

* The problem with work

People want to do meaningful work that pays a living wage. Where they work itself seems wrote or mundane, they want to know that it somehow contributes value to a greater good. Jobs lost during the recession are being replaced by lower paying and less skilled work. The cost of a college education is rising, and the return on investment is declining in many instances – a degree does not guarantee a job as it once did. How are where are people to access the resources they need to find or create opportunities for meaningful work? The number of “natural entrepreneurs” is far lower than the great host of folks who are needing or wanting to develop something new through which to make the world a better place and earn an income. The models currently available – work from home, work at a coffee shop, work at an executive suite – all leave much to be desired, and ultimately miss the most important elements – the resources and relationships to do something important.

Enter Coworking

The term was coined by Brad Neuberg in 2005. Neuberg founded Hat Factory, a live-work space open to others during the day, and Citizen Space, a work only coworking space. A large network of coworking spaces and abundant information can be found on Coworking Wiki. Coworking seeks to be the “evolution of the executive office” by promoting collaboration in an open working environment that looks and feels more like a coffee shop or studio. At the same time it offers the amenities of an executive office environment: coffee, business machines, conference and meeting rooms, wifi. Coworking spaces cover a broad range of industries including technology, arts, design, non-profits, social entrepreneurship, business and financial services. Some spaces specialize in one niche – all tech or all design.

* The problem with parish ministry as sole vocation

Congregations are generally declining in size and income at the same time that expenses are rising. Clergy are feeling pressed to make ends meet in the church budget and in their own personal finances. At the same time many feel called to live their ministry in ways that the congregation does not endorse or embrace. This may mean working bi-vocationally – with two voices. It may mean stepping out of the parish and into a community based ministry that is either non-profit or for profit following a social entrepreneurship model. As above, finding the resources and relationships that support such a journey is difficult.

* The problem with congregations trying to connect meaningfully with people

Numerous authors have catalogued the ways in which our culture is becoming increasingly disinterested in organized religion and local congregational life. At the same time there seems a resurgence of interest in spirituality, often perceived as individualistic. Perhaps this is because people only see three options: 1) congregational life; 2) individualistic spirituality; 3) NONE. We need to increasingly create and nurture communities in the world that engender the very best of human nature and allow room for The Spirit to move in and through us. People who are staying away from congregations may never find current expressions of church interesting. So we need to create new places of community, not as doors to traditional parish life, but as alternatives alongside congregations. Both/and, not either/or.

Enter The Grove

Ken Janke founded The Grove New Haven in 2009. He saw this as a solution to the social and economic challenges of a depressed and struggling community. He began with one premise, one question and one offer.

  • The premise: God desires all human beings to cooperate in their own flourishing.
  • The question: What is your dream?
  • The offer: I would like to help you pursue your dream.

Ken calls himself a dream shepherd. As a follower of Jesus, he believes that he is called to proclaim in word and deed the good news of God’s power to redeem, reconcile and restore humanity to self, others, creation and God. He sees this as the work of the church. It is our response to God’s invitation and our prayer that, God’s “will be done and kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Ken has served in congregational and community ministries that everyone explicitly understood as church. He recognized in New Haven an opportunity to respond to God’s call in the world, and that too many trappings of “church” would hinder the work of the Gospel. Increasing numbers of people avoid or ignore anything that looks or feels like organized religion, Christian or otherwise. Yet our mandate has not changed. We are called to “go and make disciples.” Ken understands disciples of Jesus as those who live in the world as Jesus did. They bring healing where there is brokenness. They offer and facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation. They proclaim and help people to find life abundant. And he understands that the institutional church can no longer meet this call on its own, if it ever could.

The Grove is a coworking space, meeting all of the essentials in the description above. It is also much more. Ken built into the DNA of Grove culture several essential tenets that align perfectly with the values of the Reign of God.

  • Community: We care for our neighbors and allow them to care for us.
  • Contribution: Everyone has something to offer, and we each need the other.
  • Collaboration: Intentionally working together, supporting one another, promoting the common good.
  • Social Mission: In everything we do we ask, “How will this contribute to the betterment of those around me, of society, of creation, and also of myself?”

The Reign of God includes humanity and creation restored to God’s dream for our wholeness as imaged in Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22. The church is to colabor with God (1 Cor 3:9) in this work. The Grove is a platform for promoting these values, for learning together new ways to behave in business that are more human, more in line with God’s generosity, imagination and grace. When we provide people the opportunity to do meaningful work, in a collaborative community with others who are serious about the same goals, then the Kingdom of God is made manifest, it is “among and within us” (Luke 17:21).

The Grove provides a “third space” in which to build deep and meaningful relationships with others by pouring into them and supporting them in their life-giving dreams. From these relationships then spring opportunities to help people notice and explore The Spirit at work around and within them. As people who do not know the Spirit’s fingerprints or fragrance encounter this work, they are drawn toward it “as the deer thirsts for living water.” (Ps 42) Thus both actively and passively God works in and through The Grove to bring The Reign of God, beginning with the community and spreading throughout the city and around the world. Coworkers at The Grove then return to their own constellation of communities (even churches) transformed and transforming because of what they have experienced in this place.

Enter The Mix

The Mix takes a distinctly different approach. Rather than avoiding church buildings (for very good reason) because of all the baggage and barriers they present to many people, the MWF purposefully partners with congregations to be innovative and missional stewards of their resources, including buildings. So The Mix exists in the basement of and in partnership with White Rock UMC, recognizing and embracing the challenges presented by doing this work with church facilities. It is turning out to be a wonderful experiment in ministry and an opportunity to experience grace while new expressions of church emerge within the sphere of traditional forms.

The Foundation does not rescue or save. We simply ask, “What if…?” in, with and to churches, and then see what comes. Much of the other work of MWF, including our Academy and our New Monastic Houses, involve similar partnerships with churches to welcome the established institutions of church into the collaborative innovations for the kingdom of God.

Here’s the story as I understand it: The Mix as it exists emerged through the convergence of several inspirations. Mitchell Boone and Neil Moseley, pastoral leaders at White Rock UMC, imagined coworking as one of the approaches that might help the congregation engage meaningfully with its neighbors. At around the same time, Daryn DeZengotita (who first invited and welcomed me to The Grove) was on pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona, where she received a vision to open a coworking space as part of her work with the MWF. Supported by the Foundation leadership, and accompanied by Chef Rhonda Sweet to design and run The Mix Kitchen, Daryn has been able to see this vision come to fruition. The journey has not been easy, and though “success” (including but not limited to self-sustaining revenue) is in sight, it is not guaranteed. But then again, what in this life is? What does seem certain is that the effort has been worthwhile, the congregation and community are being blessed, and transformation is emerging.

People are learning new ways of working together, building community among those with and among whom they work, and dreaming of a new and better day for themselves and the world. And they are taking action that is already manifesting that new way of being. What more could anyone ask?

And Beyond…

The latest experiments, including one at Central Christian Church, are hosted and animated by Daryn through Scatterbrain Media and Table Coworking, They help existing groups imagine what it means for them to gain an understanding of and lean into this process of showing up, making space for others, and discovering together how community and collaboration are born. The goal is for groups to be captured by this spirit and organically give rise to new ways of forming connection with the world around them, renewing God’s dream for the flourishing of humanity and all creation – i.e. the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

 

What do you most want to do? What will you do?

My goal in life is to read and write – and through these activities to make a difference. And along side this WORK, to be near or on the water, with my beloveds.

I think I’m wired the way I am for a reason – all pathology aside. My personality and my gifts and my strengths and my abilities and my experiences and my education and my connections and my unique point of view all somehow work together to make me who I am. (perhaps there’s other stuff in there too…)

A colleague and friend asked me several years ago, “What do you most want to do?”
My answer: “Sit on the porch overlooking the water and write.”
“Well,” he asked after a pregnant pause, “What do you need to do in order to do that?”

What indeed.

I also recognize that the VAST MAJORITY of the world’s population have, do, and probably always will work at things to feed and shelter their families that are in no way connected to their passions and dreams and personality. They do what needs to be done. Perhaps it is expressly western privilege that leads me to think I can and should do otherwise.

And, there is plenty of other meaningful work that I find very rewarding. I LOVE congregational ministry. Sermon preparation and delivery, worship planning and leadership, leadership development, teaching, strategic planning, community engagement, pastoral visitation, EVEN MEETINGS. I find meaning and purpose in all of it. The casual conversations at a Thursday morning men’s breakfast coffee klatch at McDonalds are enjoyable and important. This week I led 16 octogenarians and above in a brief service of Eucharist and Ashes. I could tell by their expressions that this was incredibly important to them, and thus an immensely important way for me to spend an hour of my time.

I don’t want to be one of those people who delays the pursuit of life’s passions for retirement, only to drop dead of a heart attack the next week. My ow grandfather died at age 59 on the dais during the hymn of preparation for the sermon on the Monday of Holy Week. I never knew him, but by all accounts he lived a rich and full life and did the things he found important, worthwhile and meaningful. That’s what matters. Whether he had unfulfilled hopes and dreams for himself and others, I don’t know. That’ll be a good conversation with my own father and uncle soon. A neighbor of mine lost his wife of 50+ years 6 months after moving into the first home they ever owned together – he was career military so they’d always lived in base or government owned housing. He’s going on to live a rich full life, but I wonder if they’d have done something differently had they known. I’ve seen so many clergy suffer severe health problems within 1 year of retiring, as if their body said, “Finally, I can rest long enough to be sick because you’re not dragging me around every which way.”

The most important impact I make is in the lives of my wife and two children. That is completely clear for me. There is no argument that can prevail against it.

AND, I think I have something to contribute to the larger world, to the church, and to the conversation about how leaders in ministry can flourish and thrive in the coming decades. This matters, because communities’ health and well-being is greatly impacted by the organizations and institutions within them. Individual and grassroots resilience can overcome immense dysfunction in local institutions. Even so, everyone benefits when local congregations, nonprofits, education, government and businesses are healthy.

And organizations can not be healthy if their leaders are not healthy.

And it is incredibly difficult to be a healthy leader in the midst of a dis-eased institution.

Thus, supporting leaders in today’s institutions matters. It creates direct impact in the real lives of individuals and households throughout our communities, regardless of population size or demographic diversity.

If I could find a way to impact that system from my study, I would. At present, I don’t know how to do that other than by pastoring a local congregation, serving in nonprofit leadership, offering coaching and consulting, and showing up in local communities. If you or someone you know wants to pay me to research and write perhaps in an international think tank on leadership impact, please let me know.

Until then, I look forward to seeing you in church, in a coworking space, or at the local coffee shop.

Getting noticed, or not.

I desire to be noticed
not for ego’s sake,
but for the sake
of influence.

I want to made a difference
because I’ve been told
that’s why I’m here.

They’ve told me
that my impact
is measured against
my audience.

“Mine is
bigger
than yours…”

Personally,
I’d just as soon
sit with my books,
my pen and paper,
play with ideas,
and live with words.

I’d walk in the woods,
sit in cafes and pubs
commune
with a few choice friends.

I’d linger over
small batch,
fresh roast,
single malt,
meritage.

I’d think my thoughts,
dream my dreams,
weave my tapestries
of hope and love
and transformation.

“Vocation requires an audience.”
This I believe is true.

But perhaps
the audience could be
a tree
a bird
just one friend
a smallish room
of patient listeners.

Impact.
Deep or wide?
There’s a fountain
flowing deep AND wide.

Some go wide.
Others go deep.
Must we all do both?

Must I do both?
Can I do both?
Is it my burden to bear?

I think
the burden
is to show up
fully
whenever and wherever.

I said it wasn’t ego.
Perhaps I’m wrong.
Perhaps ego wants impact.

“Cast your bread upon the waters.”
…but…
“Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”
…then…
“The swine ran headlong down into the water.”

Can I let go
of the desire
to make a difference?
Should I?

What to do?

I find myself jealous of others
who find success and visibility.
Today its #realclergybios.
Truly, I’m overjoyed for Elizabeth & Mihee
Glad that the stories are being told
and heard.

And yet I’ve been struggling for years
to figure out how
to get an audience
for this very conversation.
And they got one without even trying.
(Yes, I know that’s unfair and untrue.)
Their visibility far outstretched their reach.

I rejoice with them and for them.
AND
I’m left wondering.
Am I supposed to DO SOMETHING
to create broader visibility and impact?

I hustle
for opportunity
that seems elusive.

Because it matters.
Ministry matters.

I really care about the lives of ministers.
Clergy and lay leaders
some well trained, others less so
some immensely gifted, others less so.
All longing to be faithful
to make a difference
to change the world
to see the kingdom and the kin-dom come.

There is so much need
and so few resources
and so little help
or hope.

We can.
God will.

Perhaps I can rest in that.