Pursuing Partnership: 5 Needed Conversations

Conversation #3: Performing a Cultural Analysis

By Dr Rob Dixon drrobdixon.com

Together in Ministry: Women and Men in Flourishing Partnerships, IVP

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

This is part 4 of a six-part series of articles that lay out crucial conversations that communities can have in pursuit of a ministry workplace marked by thriving partnerships between women and men. The five conversations include story, theology, culture, boundaries, and representation. 

Consider the power of organizational culture. In her book Made to Flourish, Shelley Trebesch writes, “Organizational culture can be loosely defined as the shared assumptions, beliefs, and normal behaviors (norms) of a group. It has a powerful influence on the way people live and act in an organization, department, or team. Organizational culture dictates how and if people really belong. It determines what behaviors are deemed appropriate or not in the group context. Organizational culture shapes the strategies and subsequent activities the organization chooses to do in order to pursue its vision.” 

A third conversation that faith communities can have in pursuit of flourishing mixed-gender ministry partnerships involves an unflinching analysis of a community’s organizational culture. To perform this analysis, a leader can guide their community into a Lewin’s force field exercise.

Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist who focused on change dynamics. A Lewin’s analysis involves articulating two kinds of forces, driving and restraining forces, in play in a particular field. In the process, a Lewin’s analysis helps leaders and communities confront reality. There are four steps to a Lewin’s analysis. 

First, a group gets clear about the desired change. What is the goal the group is aiming for? In the context of this third conversation, the goal would be something around flourishing mixed-gender ministry partnerships.

Second, the group articulates the driving forces present in the field. In other words, as the group thinks about moving toward the goal, what is working in the group’s favor? I was doing a Lewin’s analysis recently with a team around this topic, and they identified forces including individual people who were earnest about forming flourishing partnerships, a long history of praxis in this area, and concrete stories that illustrate the efficacy of mixed-gender ministry partnerships. 

Third, the group clarifies the restraining forces. These are the things that would inhibit or thwart positive change. In the group I was working with recently, they listed restraining forces including theological ambiguity, relatively few women leading in the community, and concerns about appropriate boundaries. 

Finally, the group discerns next steps. Once the Lewin’s field has been articulated, the group can work together to identify next steps, which could include accentuating an existing driving force or attempting to mitigate an existing restraining force, or both.

Organizational culture can be modified, but it takes careful work. Understanding the various driving and restraining forces is a great place to start as a community pursues positive change in the area of flourishing mixed-gender ministry partnerships.

Register now for the full MissioNexus ‘24’ Workshop on “Pursuing Partnership,” March 21-22, in Kansas City hosted at Avant Ministries.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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