Tag Archives: vision

Looking back on Leading for Life One Day

“easily the most equipping thing I’ve done this year. Amazing content.. ..can’t wait for more”

“the first session stimulated a conversation between myself and a co-worker that proved challenging but oh so helpful”

“I have a new ministry idea. I will investigate it now!”

“I feel refreshed and have been reminded that better leadership is possible”

“I’d like to have a conversation with church team and leadership people about how we can strive to make the team that I’m a member of the best that we  can be to follow God’s mission for us/the church/community”

A selection of the feedback from the 30 leaders from across the island (Dublin, Drogheda, Belfast and even Donegal!) who gathered at the fabulous Riasc Centre in Swords for the first Leading for Life One Day in Ireland.

We were stretched and inspired to get clear on our vision by Innovista’s International Director Jason Lane, in addition to dealing with the elephants in our rooms that we’ve been avoiding. Kate Bowen-Evans passionately reminded us that bad management in Christian organisations and churches is a pastoral issue as she led us through building teams and managing people well.

The afternoon saw a change of pace and the opportunity to be inspired by stories of mission in very different contexts from Ruth  Garvey-Williams of Vox magazine and Pam Rooney who founded Paradoxology – a Christian prayer space at Electric Picnic.

With plenty of time for reflection, discussion, sharing insights and ideas and to work on applying the sessions to our contexts, even the torrential rain didn’t manage to dampen spirits. We’re excited about the impact the leaders at Leading for Life are having and will have in their communities, and look forward to sharing some of those stories as we follow them up. Check out some of the photos below.

In 2017 there will be two Irish Leading for Life One Day events – in Dublin and the North-West.

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Seeing Clearly – the Power of Vision

50 years ago Martin Luther King Jnr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and shared a dream so powerful that we still talk about it and look to it as one of the greatest examples of the power of vision.

What this city needs isI love MLK’s ‘dream’ speech. Every time I read it or listen to it I get a lump in my throat. But yet a part of me despairs. When it comes to inspiring vision we shouldn’t have to delve back 50 years and cross to another continent. I dream of a day when the phrase ‘crisis in leadership’ isn’t banded about so readily. I dream of a day when Ireland is overflowing  with local visionaries who articulate a better future for their community that inspires people around them to action. Local visionaries who lead the way by living that better future out themselves, no matter what the cost.

Like Cam  I want to see us being ‘pro’ hope instead of ‘anti’ everything.

How do we get there? Is it an impossible dream? No.  We may tend to shoot anyone who puts their head above the parapet and be quicker to find fault than ask ‘why not?’ But no obstacle is insurmountable. After all, even when our faith is as small as a mustard seed it can still move mountains. So what can we do?

Learn to be possibility thinkers

Instead of seeing why things won’t work, let’s be people who learn to be possibility thinkers. When we are tempted to complain, let’s stop for a moment and look for the positive perspective. Instead of complaining about, for example our politicians, let’s learn to begin to think about what politicians who truly served the needs of the most vulnerable might look like. How would a good politician act towards other parties? How would they listen to and serve their constituents? What can we do to encourage that behaviour? Who among us even need to step up and begin to try to model what we want to see? How can we inspire change?

Change comes far more readily when the positive perspective of ‘what could be’ is articulated.

Look deep inside

What we believe shapes how we see and what we see. As Christians our theology is important. We need to wrestle with who God is and what He is doing in the world. We need to learn to hold things in the appropriate tension. We need to hold human brokenness in careful tension with being image bearers. If we believe in a God who is making everything new, who through Jesus is reconciling all of creation back to Himself, and who has given us all authority on earth and in heaven then we will be full of hope and expect change.

When we look deep inside and examine where we find our identity,  it changes how we see the world. When we see ourselves as dearly loved sons and daughters worth so much that Jesus gave his all to bring us into the family, it begins to free us from finding our value in making ourselves look good, and others look small. It frees us to see the dignity and value in those around us. It frees us to dream about what they could be.


Get practical and get tangible

MLK’s vision endures and is so powerful because it is so vivid and tangible. He painted powerful pictures that we can see clearly. To be a visionary isn’t to have your head stuck in the clouds disconnected from reality. It is to describe a better future in ways that can be easily grasped. Vision is about seeing clearly.

Henry Ford did it when he described a future where the motor car was so affordable that every family could have one making horses redundant as a mode of transport.

Glenn Jordan did it for me as he described Skainos square in the planning stage as “a new street which in an area where territory is marked by flags and flagstones, could truly be a shared space because it had never had a flag flown or a kerbstone painted. A new street that ended in the church.”

Isaiah did it describing the coming kingdom where swords will be beaten into ploughshares.

What would a better future look like where you are? Or more accurately what would the kingdom of God look like if it became reality in your community/sphere of influence? What would change? How would people behave and treat each other?

I dream of a city where every young person has older role models who believe in them and give them the courage to take risks. Where every teenager has the opportunity to flourish no matter what area of the city they grow up in. Where teenagers help the elderly with their shopping and their gardens. Where dealing drugs is no longer seen as the best way to earn money. Where old people feel safe and neighbours spend time in each others houses laughing, crying and sharing life together.

What’s your dream?

This article was originally written for AskWhatNow  – check out the other articles and videos on their site.

Tempo – training leaders who train leaders

KeithDeveloping leaders is a process that takes time. Time to implement, to build team, observe, experiment, evaluate, tweak and practice skills. Secondary school teacher Keith was a member of the Belfast Tempo group that finished last year and leads the Scripture Union group at his school.

“Tempo has given me the confidence to try more things, and actively pursue a vision for change rather than just accepting things the way they are. It provided me with the tools and know how to analyse my role and our group, set a specific vision and the strategies needed to push us forward”

SUNI - Making your markOver the year since finishing Tempo, Keith has been helping his SU group get a clearer focus on what it means for them to do mission in, and serve their school. Little did he realise that faithfully pursuing that calling and implementing his learning from Tempo would see him leading seminars on vision for SU leaders from 25 schools across Northern Ireland this month!

We want to equip more leaders like Keith to bring lasting hope to the places they live, work and lead.

We currently have two Tempo groups running and will be starting two new Tempo groups in Dublin and Belfast in November.

If you are interested or  know any young leaders who would benefit from Tempo see here for more information and download the Tempo flyer here.


Why is “I have a dream” such an enduring example of the power of vision?

Every time I listen to this speech it grabs me, creates a lump in my throat and inspires me. It is one of the supreme examples of the power of vision. Watch it here:

Why is it such an enduring speech and example of the power of vision?

1. He paints a  vivid description of the future

Vision that inspires and moves to action is more about painting pictures than words. The more vivid those pictures are, the more they can clearly be seen, the more powerful vision is. When we try to communicate vision, one of the main reasons it doesn’t catch is because we paint vague pictures that are not specific that can’t be easily ‘seen’.

2. And a vivid description of the current reality

King doesn’t pull any punches about the reality of how things are today.

One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

and in so doing he highlights:

3.The urgency of bridging that gap between the future and now

When we communicate vision, we need to help people see that this gap between what should be and what is now is not how things should be. We need to show why the future should be different – King does this expertly throughout.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

4. Despite that gap there is hope that things can be different

I’ve noticed in working with some leaders in Ireland that we can be very good at pointing out what is wrong, but not so good at demonstrating hope – at helping people to imagine the difference their contribution could make. Again in some ways this is linked to how accurately we paint a vivid description of a better future.

5. We know the cost of this vision to MLK

MLK I have a dream speech

MLK I have a dream speech

Vision costs. It isn’t just something we can throw out there and not bear a personal cost. The cost King had already paid in terms of jail, beatings, bombings actually fills us with even more hope – that despite these hardships he still had a dream and that dream in fact became more urgent. With vision that makes real significant change there is always a cost, and the credibility of the vision and those communicating it are directly linked to the cost they are prepared to pay.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

How can we carry on the legacy of MLK and that dream that still awaits its final realisation?

What else in this famous speech demonstrates the power of vision?

Innovating Mission Workshop

Innoviating Mission - Urban Junction

What does it look like to ‘innovate’ mission? In partnership with Urban Junction (a Methodist mission project in Dublin) we hosted a workshop to explore this question.

In the morning we heard from three local leaders who had started three quite different mission projects around Dublin – Third Space, Hope Community Church and Urban Junction.

Some of the themes that appeared included the importance of taking time to listen to and immerse ourselves in the community. Credibility is a huge issue in Ireland and so listening to, being present in and engaging the community is vital if we are to build meaningful relationships. Prayer and patience were two further themes that stood out in all three examples.

Inspired by these stories of God at work in often surprising ways, and leaning on their learning we then spent the afternoon taking time to understand our own contexts better. This provided the foundation for a  fruitful time sharing ideas and praying into each others contexts in groups.

We are following up this workshop at the end of the summer are and excited to see the outcomes.

What are the main things you have learned through starting mission initiatives?

Valerie dreams big

ValerieA year and a half ago Valerie was exploring what she believed about God. As Muslims and Christians shared their faith with her she knew she needed to decide which path to follow.

She followed Jesus.

Today Valerie is part of a Scripture Union team leading retreats to help teenagers in secondary schools explore faith in Jesus. Since September they have led retreats for over 1000 teenagers from the greater Dublin area.

At a recent Tempo module to help young leaders’ articulate vision, Valerie (pictured) stood up to share her dream.

She paused, nervous about articulating this dream for the first time.

Then she started to tell us her vision to play a part in reconciling rival tribes in Afghanistan through the provision of healthcare; bringing hope and healing to a country devastated by conflict.

We were stunned, inspired by this gifted young leader and new Christian who dares to dream big.

“Tempo has given me the opportunity to think through my vision in ways I hadn’t done before. I’m now clearer on the steps required and focused on how to achieve it.” Valerie

Tempo has been helping Valerie put wheels on her vision and think about how to achieve it. The first module on context and mission affirmed her desire to bring the hope of Jesus in ways that are contextually appropriate for the Afghan culture.

In September Valerie takes the next step as she begins a medicine degree. For now she is excited about the opportunities she has each week to help teenagers as they begin their journey of exploring faith in Jesus.

There are Tempo groups starting in Belfast and Dublin. Click here for more information.

Vision and Hope

I’m reading, thinking and talking a lot about vision at the moment.

From teasing out an understanding of vision with the teenagers we are piloting Future Leaders with to Tempo in Belfast this Saturday, it’s all about vision.

Vision is one of those misunderstood and abused words and concepts. It has become significantly cheapened with each ‘vision statement’ that hangs on a wall or gathers dust in a cupboard and is never enacted. Yet it remains a powerful concept.

I know of churches which have incredible vision statements which never get mentioned. I know of churches and organisations that are suspicious of the ‘baptism’ of too much that reeks of a business sector steeped in capitalism and values which often run counter to that of the kingdom of God.

I get frustrated by a ‘defence’ or theology of vision that only uses  the ‘without vision the people perish’ verse. It isn’t a great translation which you’ll notice if you look at any other version other than the KJV. Vision in the bible is much more deeply rooted than one verse in Proverbs.

I get frustrated by a lack of vision, when people attempt what they think they can manage not what God is calling them to.

I get frustrated by too much emphasis on the ‘vision comes from within’ line, or an overemphasis on vision coming from the leader – which can perpetrate unhelpful models of authoritarian leadership. The bible is very much about community and I believe that vision is best birthed and percolated in community. Vision is also not about my dreams about a better future. Vision comes from God. In our approach to vision in the Christian community we need to rediscover the disciplines of discernment and listening to God. We need to be soaked in the scriptures because our ‘picture of a better future’ is always a picture of how life should be, of how people and places and processes and relationships and structures would look if the Lordship of Jesus was given full expression. That is why vision is crucial, because vision is about eschatology, it is about the church being the church, it is about the Kingdom of God breaking into this world and being expressed and demonstrated. It is about hope. And it brings hope.

Maybe the Proverbs verse is more apt than we realise – where there is none of God’s revelation, none of his prophetic vision, the people throw of all restraints and live as they like.

As we discern God’s vision for the context we are in – or as we discern how God’s rule and kingdom should be expressed in our context we are following in the footsteps of the OT prophets as they painted pictures of life under the rule of the Messiah – “on that day…”.  Vision is nothing new, although we may find different ways of putting it in a plan or on a wall or on a document. At it’s heart vision is the living picture of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is on heaven. Vision is about hope – not the “I hope that one day” but the certain hope of the power of the resurrection breaking into a fractured world. And we certainly need more of that.

We need communities with the discipline to listen, the courage to submit to Jesus as Lord and to live that out vividly.

We need that clear prophetic vision that brings hope.

We need leaders to serve their communities by clearly discerning what God is calling us to in this particular place at this time (not what God is calling people in another country to do that we can replicate, or what He called people 200 years ago to).