Finding rest this December

By Elaine Vitikainen

December is a busy month. We are submitting urgent reports, plans and budgets for next year. We are trying to tie up uncooperative loose ends. December can be stressful as we try to pack so many urgent activities in a short time.

But just as God called us to our work, I also believe that God calls us away from it. Amidst the hectic schedule, God calls us away to a place of rest. In John 4, we meet Jesus sitting by Jacob’s Well. He was resting as he was tired from the journey. I’m reassured that, like us, Jesus got tired.

Just as Jesus sat by the well, we too need to allow ourselves to rest. We should not fear empty spaces but instead be thankful for those moments of rest. God is calling us to rest in him. We rest in the knowledge that God is working with us. Our real achievements this past year have not come from our own strength, but only in as much as we have allowed God to work through us.

May God provide rest for our bodies and souls during this busy time. May God renew our joy and give us peace as we prepare for the coming year.

Pray through your inbox

By Rick James

This morning I was re-reading the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I’ve been putting it off for some months as I have a personal preference for the celebration of comfort. I was really struck by what he said about prayer:

‘To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer…’

‘Prayer changes things. We are co-labourers with Christ and therefore our prayers can change things. We are working with God to determine the future.

John Wesley wrote:
‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer.’
‘Listening is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing necessary in prayer. We need to discover God’s heart for people and situations.’

Martin Luther once said: “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer”. We may not be Olympic prayer athletes like Martin Luther, but if it really does change people and situations (even ours) we have a huge responsibility. Perhaps we can do more regular jogging…

As you look at the day and the week ahead, take time now to listen to God about and to pray for:
• All the different jobs on your to-do list; and/or
• All the meetings arranged in your schedule; and/or
• All the emails in your in-box awaiting response.

The Space for Grace Principles

By Elaine Vitikainen

In the blog post, What is Space for Grace , we were reminded that Space for Grace is a way of working and a theology of change. As we strive for professional excellence, following the good organisational development practice, we believe that the change process involves a spiritual dimension.

The following principles distinguish a ‘Space for Grace’ approach from simply good OD. As Space for Grace facilitators, we hold ourselves accountable to these principles:

Discern how God is already at work and whether the timing is right.
Pray for your client and get others to intercede for them.
Listen to God and to the people involved.
Design the intervention based on a biblical process of change.
Facilitate with grace by seeking to understand, empathise, support and appreciate.
Create safe spaces for more trusting relationships to develop.
Create and hold spaces for God’s spirit to inspire change.
Walk alongside the client after any intervention.
Humbly recognise that we are only instruments in a change process.

Here, you can find a Sketchnote of the Space for Grace principles.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact Elaine Vitikainen (elaine@evfacilitationandvisuals.fi) and Rick James (rjames@intrac.org).

 

 

Start with the small things

By Lorentz Forsberg

A friend came to visit me in my office. She is newly employed as an administrator at the parish level of one of our Swedish churches. We talked about our children and things in general for a while. Then she said suddenly:

“It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with my new job. I have just realised that people around me look stuck. They do not expect results. They do not even want to develop and change. We are just supposed to do the things we do and that is it. What should I do? I want to change this!”

Now this is a healthy start, I thought. Someone eager to lift the curtains, get rid of the dust and open the window to change. But as I probed with some questions it became clearer that things were not that easy. The organisation is tired to their bones of top-down driven change-processes. I really started to feel for my friend, as she was now embarking on this wonderfully difficult journey of being an internal change agent. It will be exhausting as well as exciting.

So, what could I say to this? Well, I did not say much, mostly I listened. My only advice in the end was to try to establish new ways of doing things in the areas of work were she had control. To model a different practice, even in small ways, can be an example to the organisation and its management. It will take her time to build trust and grow into her mission. As we parted, we agreed to keep in touch on this. People trying to free organisations from their stuck situations need a lot of support.

This week:
How can you inspire change through the way you do the small things?
What can you do to encourage the internal change agents that you know?

Meeting Jesus in hectic leadership

By Sven-Erik Fjellström

Marthainthekitchen@Bethany.then

Dear Martha,
Hope this email finds you well and not too busy.

I’ve recently been talking to some friends about that day when Jesus came to visit you (Luke 10:38-42). Things must have been very hectic indeed – and your sister Mary for one reason or another just decided to sit down to listen to Jesus.

Many of us share your frustration. I think we all have “both a Martha and a Mary in us”. The tricky thing is to find the balance. This applies to leadership too I suppose. But when thinking about leadership in hectic times, I worry about the artificial separation we make between the spiritual and worldly.

For me, periods of hectic leadership have sometimes been the most spiritual times in my life. Facing huge challenges forced me to pray like never before. I do understand your frustration about Mary. But I’m also inspired by you as a praying, meditating and reflecting person. The deep conversation you had with Jesus when your brother Lazarus died, as well as your confession that Jesus is the Messiah made me reevaluate my first impressions of you.

So, please, as soon as time allows, let me know what you think about the balance between the spiritual and worldly in our leadership.

Stay blessed,                                                                                                                                                           Sven-Erik

Don’t send that email!

By Lorentz Forsberg

As soon as I clicked ‘Send’ I knew I had made a mistake. I knew that this message was not the sort to write and send in anger. At the same time I felt a rush of excitement. I thought: ‘Finally I’m showing some guts, I’m proving I’m no longer just a lap-dog’.

My email essentially accused a group of colleagues of being the root cause of the culture of criticism that I felt had come to permeate all our office interactions. In my brief moment of ‘righteous fury’ I was convinced that the blame was all but mine. In one blow, however uncharacteristic, I managed to jeopardise years of trust and (mostly) good relations.

The golden part of this story is how my colleagues reacted and how they acted towards me. Yes, there were some tears and awkward moments. But as I look back on the days that followed I can honestly say that they have become a precious memory for me. As I was trying to clean up the mess I had made, I encountered so much love and care. I soon saw a maturity in my colleagues, that previously I had been blind to. My contempt transformed into awe and appreciation.

I know I should not have sent that e-mail. But all the same I love the effect it had…

This week:
What e-mails should you not send? What can you do instead?

Externalising blame

By Pieter Messelink

You might recognise the situation: you’re giving some input in a training or a meeting. You can see a mixed response. Some heads nodding, but others frowning, looking as if they want to burn down your ideas. I know I’m sensitive to negative feedback. To avoid the pain I tend to externalise blame. It must be someone else’s fault. This natural reaction is usually not the best ground for learning and development.

So whenever I get negative feedback I’ve started to ask myself three questions:

1. Where is the source of my identity?
If my identity comes from what I do or say, I’m in trouble. I remind myself that first and foremost I’m a child of God. Because of his amazing and borderless grace, I’m loved unconditionally. God is the source of life and wants the best for me.

2. What is God saying to me in this situation?
I take captive my own thoughts and re-align myself with my sense of calling. I seek to hear God’s perspective on the situation and then seek to respond. I do this whenever I’m preparing inputs for a training or a meeting. I remind myself: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

3. Am I willing to see those who criticise me as my coach?
God works through community. We are not meant to be lone or lonely rangers. A trusting team provides a solid base, helping me to distinguish the constructive feedback from the destructive.

What is Space for Grace?

By Elaine Vitikainen

During the last day of the Encounter for Nordic FBO Leaders in March, there was a question from one of the participants. She asked Rick and I to explain what is Space for Grace. This surprised me. After being together for almost two days, it was unclear what Space for Grace is.

So what is Space for Grace? What does it mean? How can we create it? How does it influence my work? How can it be integrated into my busy work life? Here is a page on the website which explains what is Space for Grace. A Webinar from March 2017 can also be found on this page. We also prepared a Sketchnote which tells about Space for Grace.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact Elaine Vitikainen (elaine@evfacilitationandvisuals.fi) and Rick James (rjames@intrac.org).

 

A bit more forgiveness…

By Rick James

‘It may sound odd for a professor of business to say this, but I reckon that our organisations could do with a deal more loving, a bit more forgiveness and a lot more faith in other people’.

It’s one of my favourite quotes from Charles Handy, a leading management writers over the last 50 years.

But forgiveness is really tough. Bishop Isaiah Dau’s inspiring story ‘But what about my brother’s killers?’ made this abundantly clear in the May bulletin. I was encouraged when Isaiah said forgiveness for him was an on-going process, “a daily struggle” that “keeps coming back”. I can relate to this. Perhaps when Jesus said we had to forgive seventy times seven times, he might also have meant that we had to forgive the same offence over and over again.

How do people in your organisation respond when things go wrong; when people let them down? How do you react? Mistrust and resentment may be reasonable, but ultimately destructive, responses. The only real antidote is facing the situation with both truth and grace (John 1:14). It may be unappealing and a huge struggle, but it is only forgiveness that can really transform difficult workplace relationships.

What could you do this week to make ‘truth and grace’ more part of your office culture?

Keeping communication lines open

By Alice Wainaina

What do you do when the powers that be block sensible, well-intended change?

I was assisting a children’s charity with a launch of their programme for secondary school children. Although the TOR was focused on the launch, I felt it was imperative to discuss it in the context of the institution’s sustainability. The director was relieved at being able to voice some long-standing fears about sustainability. We considered various scenarios. He eventually decided they had to shift their approach from institutional care to a family-centred approach.

I met later with a team of the charity’s donors who were visiting. While pleased with the plans for the launch, they were clearly uncomfortable with the proposed change of approach. Their fundraising was based on an orphanage-type model. Despite my efforts to explain globally-accepted good practice, they were obviously unconvinced – as after they met with the director, I found myself locked out of any further discussions.

It was hard not to take it personally. I felt upset. I wanted to judge the leader for his lack of leadership. But despite the silence from him and the donor team I had met, I forced myself to keep communicating. I tried to do this with humility and gentleness, but without wavering in my conviction. One section of the donors kept up the communication. These had realised that institutional care was not the best option for the organisation in the long term, nor even for the children. Others, however, still put their own fundraising interests first. Eventually the director of the orphanage also called. He updated me on the children’s progress but did not bring up the issue of sustainability and shift in approach. After his long silence I did not think it prudent to force it on him. I do not know what will happen. The future of the charity is at stake. Sometimes all you can do is watch and pray.

This week, who should we keep communicating with, despite their silence or opposition?
Which situations of power do we need to respond to with humility, gentleness and conviction?