Liberating Structures for Ministry

by Mary Frances

A few months ago, I stumbled on a Facebook invitation for something called Liberating Structures for meetings.  It turns out this is a collaborative of folks who think that meetings shouldn’t be boring, they shouldn’t be predictable, and most of all they shouldn’t be required if they aren’t really necessary.  I suppose that the last year of more Zoom meetings than usual helped to pique my interest and so I dove into a couple of weeks of webinars (yes, more Zoom meetings) and started to learn about this interesting group of ideas and tools. 

The more these ideas percolate in me and the more I get to try on these new ideas, the more I think we need something like Liberating Structures for ministry.  We could start with “are all these meetings really necessary?,” but then we could get down to the meaty stuff like “why are we doing this?”  and “is this really important anymore?”  or “are we just doing this because we have always done it?”  And my favorite, “is our leadership organized to hinder or help support ministry?”

Just a few days ago we celebrated one of the biggest days in the church year, Easter.  And Easter has always been about Liberating Structures.  It’s about taking down the sacred cows, challenging the patriarchy and the old ways. It’s about liberating our very beings from sin and death.  This year in particular, with the hope of Covid soon in our rear-view mirror, liberation feels particularly close.  Add Spring to the mix and there is a sense of barely constrained giddiness.  Maybe we can go back to the way things used to be!  But why?  Is the old way what we really want? Why not allow this season, this sense of liberation, to creep into our souls and our structures and free us from the sin of the way things used to be?  What would it look like to liberate your ministry from the past and engage some new ways of being, some new ways of living into the ministry to which God has invited you?

As the weather warms, there are neighbors to meet, flowers to plant, vegetable gardens to till, and needs in your community still unmet.  You can get to know your community with our Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report, but let that just be one tool.  Take advantage of this season of liberation to walk your neighborhood, talk with ordinary folks, with leaders and shop owners.  Hear what they have to say about what is good in your community, what is missing, what needs to change.  Listen for the invitation to join them in addressing those needs.  Listen for the call of liberation that is right outside your door.