New modules: Creating New Christian Communities and Mission Entrepreneurship
The Rev’d John Wigfield, our Director of Contextual Education and Tutor in Mission & Evangelism, has been working hard with colleagues to develop a new suite of modules with a specific focus on mission. In this blog, he tells us more about what’s on offer.
“These two new modules are normally delivered in the Spring Term and principally benefit people training for ministry as both lay and ordained pioneers as a standard part of their pioneer pathway, and independent students engaged in pioneering are also warmly welcomed into the learning community.
“In their first year, pioneering students take a five-week module called Creating New Christian Communities (CNCC). They start by getting acquainted with four different theological perspectives on mission, covering Mission as Missio Dei, Mission as Integral Mission, Mission as Liberation, and Mission as Inculturation. This helps them to see that there is a wide range of legitimate approaches to mission, and to get a firm grip on the theological underpinnings of each approach. In the following weeks, they are introduced to four expert practitioners, each of whom stands in a different part of the tradition, and who has created a new Christian community on the foundation of one of the four different approaches to mission studied in week 1. Through interacting with these creative, energetic, dynamic, and hugely experienced practitioners, pioneers gain a sense of the diversity of shapes which new Christian communities can take, of how the particular underpinning theology of each approach serves to inform its particular values, and of how all this is reflected in both the pragmatics of the approach to mission adopted and the missional outcomes.
“Online delivery means that pioneers can benefit from the experience of practitioners based around the country. As well as studying the inculturation approach through a new community created in rural Hertfordshire, they also encounter a new-monastic fresh expression formed through the Missio Dei approach in a downtown part of London, an Anglican church community formed almost from scratch in multicultural Bradford through an integral mission approach, and the Christian communities made up of students and asylum seekers rooted in a commitment to social transformation in a liberationist approach in Sunderland. Amongst the things which pioneers who have taken this module have spoken highly of are the understanding of the theologies of mission they have gained, the opportunities to evaluate their prior assumptions about mission and to appreciate the value of the multiple approaches encountered, and the stimulating exchanges with expert practitioners.
“In a further five-week module taken in their second year, students build on the foundations gained through engaging with the CNCC module, and further apply this developing understanding of mission to the world of “Mission Entrepreneurship.” In terms of theory, pioneers gain an understanding of how “mission entrepreneurship” is rooted in and relates to social entrepreneurship; critical tools with which to understand and evaluate the wide range of meaning and application attributed to the notion of “mission entrepreneurship” by different wings of the church; and frameworks within which to understand the various goals – whether social, exemplary, or profit-oriented – which businesses run in church contexts can have, and how this impacts on their values and working practices, and colours their view of and approach to mission. Students are also given further practical tools through which to analyse the development and effectiveness of a mission enterprise they have experience of. Keeping in mind the models of mission helps pioneers to evaluate the extent to which, and the sense in which, these “missional enterprises” can truly be considered missional. As the module concludes, they then draw on all they have gained from the two modules combined to give a presentation which demonstrates both their growing awareness and understanding of, and their developing practical skills in, this significant, established, and still-developing discipline.
“Pioneers once again benefit from interacting with a range of expert practitioners from a variety of ecclesial traditions who each bring the experience of long, creative, and fruitful careers leading and curating a wide variety of mission enterprises across the country. They explore the work of an Anglican church-based café in the Eastern Region, associated with the HeartEdge movement, which funds a worker who supports some of the most vulnerable people in the city; a wide variety of pioneering enterprises from the micro to the macro, in both rural and city contexts, which have been developed country-wide under the auspices of the Methodist Church; and the entrepreneurial work of the Leeds Church Institute – which is almost unique in being an ecumenical Christian institution with a city-wide remit for mission. Along the way, pioneers are invited to explore a host of practical questions, including how mission enterprises may need to adapt and change in the face of unanticipated external forces, such as, most recently, the COVID pandemic.
“By the end of their training, the combination of these two modules fully equips pioneer ministers to think clearly about mission, inspiring them with a diverse range of vibrant examples, and giving them the practical tools both to do things well, and to become thoughtful reflective practitioners.”
Contact us for answers to any queries on these or other modules.