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Life-on-Life Leadership
1 June 2012

One of SIM International's primary roles is to provide dynamic, thoughtful, and culturally-appropriate mission leadership in more than 60 countries and dozens of ministries. We believe that the single best way to cultivate a leader is for another leader to physically come alongside them. Surrounded by the local realities that create ministry dynamics, the two pray together, search the Scriptures, and wrestle with the complexities of leadership in that context. This life-on-life model yields great rewards for both people! Please take a moment to read a few testimonials from current SIM leaders:

Dave Bremner, Deputy International Director for East & Southern Africa:

When it became necessary to identify a new director for the SIM South Sudan team—a team working in one of the most demanding contexts—two couples made the short list. Both couples had great strengths, some leadership experience, and some doubts as to their suitability. I was convinced that God was leading us to appoint one or both, but it was very unclear which of them were most suited to the director role. So we arranged to spend a weekend together seeking God’s guidance for the leadership of South Sudan. Since the couples are good friends and had respect for each other’s gifts and spiritual integrity, we were able to comfortably discuss the question of who should be put forward as the team’s next director.

My wife accompanied me, and so the six of us spent the weekend together in spiritual retreat. We prayed for each other and for the South Sudan team. We studied the scriptures, and I shared a series of studies on leadership. We cooked together, played and walked together, and grew in our understanding of each other’s heart for ministry. We also worked through some leadership principles and materials.

"The spiritual trust that was developed during that weekend has borne fruit over and over again."
On the last afternoon we tackled the question how leadership should be structured for the South Sudan team. Since we had developed a deep trust and spiritual connection, it was an easy exercise to conclude that one of the couples should be the director with responsibilities for the visionary and spiritual leadership. The other couple were perfectly suited to a more administrative and hands-on role. It was a simple step to establish the shared leadership functions of the two couples.

Now, four years later, the South Sudan team has been through severe challenges and trials. The leadership team has been tested in every way. Yet our relationships have grown though we work far distances from each other. Despite many events that could have divided and destroyed our leadership partnership, we have worked solidly together. The spiritual trust that was developed during that weekend has borne fruit over and over again.

Investing the time, energy and resources in the leadership mentoring relationship has been for me the single factor that has best helped create this relationship.


Chris Crowder, Director for South Sudan

"He...[was] able to name things that you only feel in your gut while laboring head down in the trenches."
Dave (Deputy International Director for East and Southern Africa) was a member of our Country Review team which split into three sub-teams. Dave’s adventurous side called out to be part of the Nile team which was to take a slow boat down the Nile and see hippos, and possibly sleep on the boat looking up at the stars. However, he humbled himself and was assigned to the Juba team. What I remember is this—he looked at me and said, “South Sudan has the potential to become one of the greatest nations in the world because there is no separation of church and state. People want to see the nation and the church grow together.”

One of the values of Dave’s visit was to call out things that are true. He and the Country Review team were able to name things that you only feel in your gut while laboring head down in the trenches.


Dave Shipster, Acting Director for the Region of Southern Africa

Malcom, SIM's International Director, and Liz have always been very keen to take people on the journey with them. They naturally include people in what they are doing and the issues they are dealing with. Such interactions are not forced or premeditated—but are simply an invitation into the journey they are on.

McGregors in South Africa
An example of this occurred when they held a meeting with Chinese missionaries to look at the issue of ministering to the needs of the Chinese diaspora in Africa. On a turn, they invited me to attend, be exposed to some of the issues and encourage further interaction between the Chinese leaders and myself given my leadership role in the region. They could easily have met with the Chinese by themselves and passed on the information, but being part of the meeting gave me so many insights into the way they handle meetings, the issues involved and the opportunities for ministry in this area.

On another occasion, a group of regional leaders sat down for coffee with Dave Bremner, as we grappled with a leadership issue in one of our countries. Having the opportunity to speak face to face (Skype is great but has its limitations!) and have someone with a “longer view” encourage us and present options that we have not been free to bring to the table was very helpful. Together we worked out an action plan and steps to achieve that plan. Dave did not action any of the steps—we did that—but we came away energized and enthusiastic to go forward.


Jeff Hahn, Deputy International Director for the Americas

Traveling always causes mixed emotions for me. On the one hand it takes me away from my family and disrupts my sleep, eating, exercise, work, and other routines. It also significantly impacts SIM International’s budget. However, despite these drawbacks, the ministry benefits that come from visiting missionaries in person make these trips a highly effective use of mission resources. The leadership development, mentoring, coaching, discipleship, pastoral care, and problem solving that take place during these visits are why travel is so important for those in international leadership roles. Strategic visits play a key role in the leadership development of SIM missionaries serving around the world.

The primary focus of my ministry travel is leadership development, so I could share numerous stories of how God chooses to allow leadership development to take place through these trips. I am cognizant that I gain just as much, if not more, from those I visit as they might gain from me. My preference is to spend significant time with the country director both at the beginning and at the end of my visit. This is planned with the hope of maximizing the empowerment potential for the director and to cultivate their leadership as, together, we address the innumerable complexities that accompany their leadership roles. The beginning and end visits allow time for discussion, reflection, and then feedback. In the intermediary time I strive to meet with as many missionaries as possible in the context of where they live and minister, so as to provide encouragement, support, feedback, and ask relevant questions with the goal of helping them develop in their service for God’s Kingdom.

A story related to travel and leadership development

One recent travel experience highlights the leadership development potential of SIM International travel. In many of our countries, excellent ministries and projects are successful in transforming communities, yet these same initiatives struggle with recurring issues of sustainability, governance, and other obstacles that limit their full ministry potential. Ministry leaders, project managers, and country directors are constantly wrestling with these issues, and sometimes are frustrated in seeking to understand which are the priority items to address, what are the underlying causes hindering progress, and how to encounter the viable solutions to overcome the obstacles. They seek help from SIM leadership.

Matthew
I recently organized for Matthew, SIM’s Mentor for Business Based Ministries, and I to visit missionary leaders of some ministries in South America to see where we might be able to help them along. Each of these ministries involved a major project with significant infrastructure. God had already used each one to transform lives. And although none of the ministries we visited were established as for-profit businesses, each one had a significant financial component as part of the ongoing ministry, along with the accompanying questions of viable financial sustainability.

Matthew and I invested our time in meeting with the ministry leaders, managers, staff, boards, and country directors to make observations and to ask questions. We desired to assist in generating ideas and provide leadership development to all the personnel serving in these wonderful ministries. We hoped God might use us as catalysts for generating conversations that might lead to breakthroughs in some of the recurring barriers they encountered in their ministries. As outsiders, we were not in the position to have all the answers or to make decisions for others. Rather, we aimed at empowering the leaders through our time together. We hoped that this would help them generate dozens of new ideas, that among their ideas they would discover one or two nuggets of gold, and that through the process the ministries might become still more effective in reaching people for God’s Kingdom.

"...ideas flourished as people sat down together and prayed, worshiped, ate, laughed, and began generating creative solutions to their ministry needs."
As a direct result of these visits, each of the missionary leaders and their boards made significant adjustments to overcome the recurring frustrations that kept the ministries from reaching their full impact for the Kingdom. In one case, the gold nugget related to defining the roles of the mission, the local board, and the staff. In another, the nuggets came in the form of new and creative income generating solutions.

The discovery of each nugget started with an intentional visit. The gold became visible when the visiting leaders established synergistic environments characterized by grace and trust—settings in which ideas flourished as people sat down together and prayed, worshiped, ate, laughed, and began generating creative solutions to their ministry needs.

SIM is blessed both with an ethos that invites such healthy dialogues to occur and with inspiring missionaries who are ready to put workable plans into action. We pray that God would continue to bless and provide the resources necessary to carry out His Kingdom work through personal visits focused on intentional leadership and ministry development.


     
  Angola Team  
     

Paul Gunning, SIM Namibia

The mere fact that Malcolm and Liz were willing to travel to Namibia, speak at the Spiritual Life Conference and spend time here was significant. Maybe we have been in Africa so long that we have adopted the value of 'being' over 'doing'. Of course they did a lot, but it was 'being with us' that was most appreciated.


Dr. Andrew Ng, Champion for New Initiatives in Asia

In every Asia-Pacific country where SIM works, we are faced with an urgent need for trained leaders with an understanding of the current global and mission realities. (Hence the need for travel and to host regional and global meetings.) We needed them even yesterday, which is too late now. But, today and in the near future is our hope for the unreached, the lesser-reached and the difficult-to-reach, if we can develop more such leaders. At this moment, we are forced to be on a largely stand-by mode while waiting and watching the opportunities to advance the gospel pass us by.”


Beverly Crowder, SIM South Sudan

When Chris and I were being considered for director, Dave and Nicki flew to meet with Chris, myself and two colleagues that would make up the South Sudan leadership team with us. Dave and Nicki spent three days and two nights trying to form a thorough plan for management and to look at personality styles and conflict resolution styles. They were so thorough and realistic. They were also very transparent to aid in how to set good boundaries and to continue to strengthen a marriage despite the demands of leadership.

Dave has been mentoring Chris and myself on a regular basis. He has walked hand-in-hand with Chris to help him clarify and share the vision of the team with the team. He infuses integrity and strength and godliness into each conversation and strategy for extending the kingdom. He is very real and personal and never tires of focusing us toward the gospel and team focus. He also comes with a family focus. He loves our children and they love him.

This last country review Dave and the excellent team that he brought were amazing. They gave terrific feedback and were so gracious. They worked until 2 a.m. one morning to get reports done. Dave kept the team moving forward, but also knew when to step back on some topics. I respected that he could have pushed his agenda, but he did not. He showed great humility in allowing the team to gather their own conclusion in that situation. He worked day and night along with the team. Because of all the Country Review, we have already begun to look at ways to change some of our ministries. We respect the suggestion and the collective wisdom of the team that came to evaluate the South Sudan ministries. This team was stellar.


Leadership Retreat

Leadership Retreat
The directors of SIM's East and Southern Africa countries came together for a small leadership retreat in 2012. The purpose was to invest in their spiritual vitality, work through their personal and ministry plans, provide leadership training, and encourage them as they mentor younger missionaries with leadership potential. It was our hope that leadership skills and attitudes would be taught and assimilated in a context of discovery, and that leaders in the region would come to appreciate and trust each other more deeply as they inspired and encouraged each other. Some personal comments from attendees:

"Thank you very much for having (us) at the retreat. It was a great opportunity of learning. And thank you again for the reminders below on what we learnt and putting it to practice! I already took some moments to evaluate how I am doing.”

“(We) were so honoured to be invited and it was such a valuable time for us. So far we have been able to spend a morning together processing some of the things we covered at the retreat but now realise we need to set aside a lot more time to work through it all.”


Facilitating one-on-one and group mentoring for leaders requires travel. A project called Leadership in Action (ZZ 99679) helps fund the international travel of SIM's international leaders to visit in-country leaders in their ministry settings. If you would like to donate to SIM's Leadership in Action fund, please contact your nearest SIM office or give online to project 99679. Thank you and God bless!


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