Weekly Thoughts

The Leader’s Bucket List

By Tobias Nyondo

If we were told we had a few more years to live, we might create a ‘bucket list’ of things we wanted to do before we die. Yet many of us live as though our life was endless – an illusion of immortality. We never identify what is on our bucket list and we never get around to doing it.

As I study the scriptures, I believe there are five must-haves on the leaders’ bucket list. These define the essence of a leader and the legacy that every leader should leave:

Positive impact on followers – Jesus Christ declared his bucket list in Luke 4:18. In
a nutshell, it was about bringing a lasting positive impact on those he came in touch with.
Identifying talent – for any organisation to survive, it needs to embrace talent. You
cannot exercise talent unless it has been identified. It is also important to create a conducive environment for the talent to be developed and used to its full potential.
Growth and multiplication – We are not only called to maintain what we have but to grow it. Leaders grow entities and they multiply.
Succession – God is concerned about his kingdom. His purpose and his will are
all reflected in his kingdom. He ensures that his kingdom will continue. Hezekiah cried out “for I have no one to inherit the throne”. Moses needed to develop Joshua. Jesus started with twelve disciples.
Have fun – A sense of humour is necessary in creating an environment that would help a leader reach out beyond his or her inner circle. People are attracted to laughter and humour. This gives an audience to fulfill the other “must-haves” above.

This week:
If you were given ten years to live, what would be on your bucket list?

Seven lessons from 30 years meddling with strategic change

By Rick James

An old, established mission agency, facing the need for fundamental change, asked me last week to present myself and my learnings about strategic change. I said if they were serious it would need:

  1. Tough decisions – The word decide means to ‘cut off’ other options. Strategy is more about what not to do or stop doing. It is a clear direction of travel, not multiple ones.
  2. Strong motive for change – Intellectual assent to the need for change was not enough. It needed a sense of crisis, that ‘business as usual’ would result in disaster.
  3. Leaders open to changing their own attitudes and behaviours – An organisation’s openness to strategic change is directly correlated to leaders’ openness to their personal change.
  4. A united top team – To take and implement tough decisions, the top team needs to be operating with huge levels personal trust. Are people in top team prepared to attend to their own stuff which lies beneath and open themselves up to God’s presence?
  5. The Holy Spirit to bring human change – We do not change fundamentally through brute logic. It the Holy Spirit who transforms hearts and minds, and deals with our hurt, resentments, self-interests, and frustrations.
  6. Trust from staff and stakeholders to implement change – A major strategic shift will be painful for many people who are accustomed to past ways of doing things. Hurts need managing compassionately. In the end it may come down to whether people trust the leadership to take them where they may not want to go.
  7. Time and effort – Major change does not happen overnight. It may take 5-10 years of careful and intentional work. It takes commitment to see such change through.

This week, think about a change your own organisation wants to make. Which of these areas needs strengthening?

Feeling the heat

By Stanley Arumugam

As part of our leadership Programme in Arusha, we invited a group of traditional dancers and drummers to entertain us in the evening. Before their performance they lit a fire and set the drums around it. I was curious about what they were doing. One of the drummers said “we make the fire to heat the skin of drum to get good sound”.

Leadership work is a performance and we are like the drums. If we are hard and unprepared we may break when the beating starts. To prepare us – we go through the fire process. We are warmed up, stretched out and made ready for our beating. As the Bible says we go through the refiner’s fire.

That night we enjoyed a great performance of drumming and dancing. The prepared drums proved fit for purpose. But not everyone attending the performance witnessed the heating and stretching earlier that evening. Our secret preparation is revealed in our public performance.

This week:                                                                                                                                                                             Reflect on where we are getting heated up in leadership?
What private preparation can help our leadership?

Selling all we have for the pearl of great price

By Rick James

Last week we considered whether mobilising the church and community together was the pearl of great price. I wonder whether, in all our activity as churches, mission or development agencies, we are missing this pearl or at least not giving it the focus and effort it merits. Faith based organisations talk easily about the added value of faith in international development; how the local church is so widely spread; in the poorest, most remote areas; present for the long term; and a respected voice influencing behaviour. Yet so much of our funded development projects actually bypasses the local church. Have a look at some different approaches.

Jesus tells the parable of the merchant who sold all he had when he found the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46). Some agencies are certainly experimenting with these local congregation-based approaches under a variety of labels, but few are selling all they have to concentrate on it. To be honest, all but one or two, are pretty half-hearted, maintaining existing traditional projects because such projects are easier to raise money for and better fit our grant-making systems.

This week consider:
What would it mean for our congregation, our mission or development agency to sell all we have for this pearl of great price?

Glimpsing the pearl of great price

By Rick James

In my 30 years of working in international development, church and community mobilisation is the closest I’ve seen to genuinely transformative, sustainable development. Watch this two minute video to find out a bit more.

Recent research in Malawi found that this church and community mobilisation approach was more than 25 times more cost effective and more than four times more likely to be sustained than even an excellent project-based approach (rated A+ by DFID). If you want the evidence, read this 2019 ‘Analysing Cost-Effectiveness report’.

What’s more, mobilising the local church to work together with its community to solve their current community challenges can breathe life (and numbers) back into the church. The local church is no longer seen as out of touch, but deeply relevant, caring and committed to the well-being of others. This is just as important for churches in Europe (if not more).

So I’ve been asking myself over the last few months, if this approach really is a pearl of great price, how should I focus more of my time (paid and unpaid) on this? What other good work do I need to say ‘no’ to in order to concentrate on what is most important?

This week think about:
 How relevant is church and community mobilisation in your context?
What for you is your pearl of great price?

See, I am doing a new thing!

By Elaine Vitikainen

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Isaiah 43:18-19 is a very popular verse in the New Year. It’s in social media, as a part of church sermons, in devotions and even on greeting cards. Many people equate this verse with the beginning of the year where God brings in new things with great provision and prosperity.

But what does Isaiah 43:18-19 really means? Bible commentaries look back at Israel’s past. It talks about how Isaiah saw God’s new manifestation of redemption through the birth of Jesus Christ. This to me talks about the reaffirming of my faith in Christ and my relationship with God. It is an assurance of hope and peace in the amidst of the turbulent world that I live in. It does not promise of financial gains and prosperity. It speaks to me about spiritual gains where Christ is the centre.

As the New Year begins, let’s listen prayerfully about what 2020 means for our relationship with God. In what areas does our relationship need to deepen and change? Where do we need refreshment, strength and determination?

Have a blessed New Year.

Look back and remember

By Elaine Vitikainen

A few years ago, I facilitated a reflection exercise with an organisation to look back
at its life over the last 15 years. We recalled the events and accomplishments in the organisation. We also looked at the high points and the low points on the journey and how people felt during those times. Participants shared their memories. At the end, I asked them to think about who they are and what has characterised how they have worked together over the years. It was a good session. The participants were encouraged and inspired. It reawakened people’s commitment to actively engage in the day-to- day work.

This exercise reminded me of Joshua’s final speech. During Joshua’s farewell, he looked back at all that God has done during his leadership. In Joshua 24: 31, it says “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua”. Joshua emphasised that God is the only source of their success.

It is immensely valuable every now and then to look back as an organisation, to contemplate the journey and recognise how God has been with you all the way.

This week:
Plan time with your team (however short) to stop and reflect. Look back and ask yourselves how things have gone, what you have learned, and where did you sense God’s presence this year. Create space to reconnect with why you do what you do.

If you haven’t emailed us yet on how Space for Grace will shape itself in 2020, please do so as we are looking forward to hear from you. If you have Weekly Thoughts to share to the Space for Grace network, please get in touch with us. Here, you can find some helpful tips in Writing Weekly Thoughts. You can also download the Weekly Thought booklets for the coming year.

Space for Grace wishes you a blessed Christmas. The next Weekly Thought will be published on Monday, the 13th of January 2020.


How did we serve you?

By Elaine Vitikainen

The renewed Space for Grace website is now on its third year with 7,856 visits. Visitors have benefitted from the rich resources that Space for Grace has to offer. But what is Space for Grace? How did it start? What do we do?

Here you can read the short chronology of Space for Grace. This very early conversation led to the publishing of ‘Creating Space for Grace’ in 2004. It was through this booklet that I first encountered Space for Grace. This booklet was shared to the organisation I worked with in Cambodia. We also have published a Sketchnote which explains why we exist and what we do.

But how did we serve you? Where are we going? Please send us an email to share your thoughts on how Space for Grace will shape itself in 2020. We are looking forward to hear from you.

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.

Confidence is the key

By William Ogara

What most people call mentorship is actually mostly about building people’s confidence. In one week alone, I have received the following requests:

“I am a member of an international board and we have just appointed a CEO who would like mentorship support from a fellow Christian. Can you assist him grow in his job?”

“I am keenly interested in pursuing a Doctorate, but I need your help to decide the area to specialise in”.

“We haven’t spoken for quite a long time… By the way, are you in a position to be my mentor?”

As I followed-up with each one, it turned out that people were primarily looking to build their confidence. It is about accompanying our fellow workers in achieving their assigned tasks in challenging situations. This reminded me of growing up in the village and learning to ride a bicycle with a large box of dried fish on the back. Initially I hid in the bush, hoping my father would not find me. But as I gradually understood how we needed this income for school fees and as I got more confident wobbling along the track, I began to enjoy it more and more. My father sometimes held my hands, sometimes let go, sometimes encouraged, at other times even punished. But he was always patient. It is like Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to pass on whatever he had witnessed to those who are ready in turn to share with others.

This week:
Who are we accompanying in their tasks? How can we build their confidence?