Tag Archives: Training

Carvers Do Not Faces Make

When reading the poem “The Cross” by 17th century British poet John Donne, I was struck especially by the following lines….

“As perchance, carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take”   (lines 33-34)

As I think about leadership development (and discipleship if you will) this reflects vital truths about the spirituality of leadership and developing other leaders.

As leaders, we can often think ourselves as “carvers” or sculptors. And as such, we can think we are the ones who are shaping “faces.”  This is a presumptuous assumption indeed!

Any theology of leadership must include a theology of personhood.  Donne highlights the truth that God has made the “face” of each person.  We are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image and as a reflection of His creative love.  True faces are not created by external artists.  They are discovered.

As I think about our true faces though, it’s quite an appropriate metaphor to liken ourselves to blocks of rock from which a masterpiece is uncovered.  For though our face is waiting to be discovered, we sure have a lot of stuff in the way from expressing that beauty to the world.  Pain, cultural baggage, theological baggage, family baggage and societal issues all start building up pretty dense obstacles to the unveiling of the masterpiece.

As I think of servant leadership and developing leaders, we must start our thinking first and foremost with this conviction that “carvers do not faces make.”  Today a more industrial approach to leadership development has been widely adopted – the perspective that you can mass produce leaders to execute your objectives on a larger scale through getting alignment to different programs or philosophies or strategies of leading or task management.

We often “train” with the result being that our trainees take on the face of our organization or our own face (sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not!).

There are always the basic skills or critical capacities people need to steward their responsibilities and place in a community.  There are things that need to be learned, skills that need to be added.  But in your context, are people’s faces —their true faces emerging and becoming more evident through the built up rock and debris that threaten to shield them off from becoming known?

I think this is an essential part of what it means to be a servant leader in the role of trainer or developer or team leader or culture shaper.  We are indeed carvers. We are sculptors with various degrees of skill.  But we are not creating or shaping faces.   We are exercising our influence, power, and skill in consistently removing those barriers that keep those faces hidden.

While we also seek to pass on skills, if we confuse what is our greatest impact upon those we develop then we will have to live with the sad reality that we are leaving masterpieces embedded in rock…or worse – we are adding to the debris.

A key part of ethical and empowering leadership is taking away “that which hid them there.”  To do that, we must be able to have eyes to look beyond just what people can do for us to see the greater story.

The hammer and chisel of a sculptor are akin to the power and influence of a leader.  We can allow beauty to emerge or we can do damage to that beauty. And maybe worse, as beauty emerges we can take credit for it.  But the carver remembers in his or her humility that while there is a part to play in removing debris, the face they did not make.

How are you working to create the space for true faces to emerge with greater clarity around you?

Because People Aren’t Transferable

This is post #1 in a short series on the future of Cru.  I don’t aim to offer a thorough assessment of what the future holds for Cru, but I do aim to raise a few areas that require new thinking and change because frankly they’re holding us back. If you want some context or wonder why I’m doing this or my heart in raising these issues and questions hit my series preview here which lays a foundation for this.  But in short, it’s because I think leaders in the organization want these conversations to happen even if there are plenty of folks that might be uncomfortable with honest discussions.

When I first joined staff with CCC/Cru, back in January of 1998 I heard something that got my attention from one of our organization’s iconic figures.  This person was discussing training with all of the new staff and said, “Everyone is always trying to come up with new training and new methods and new stuff.  Just do the training.  It works.” Now I don’t know how you feel about that kind of statement, but I react to that just as much now as I did then. I’m all for a commitment to the basics of evangelism and discipleship, but that wasn’t an affirmation of making sure we are solid in our foundations. There were embedded assumptions about training.

If context trumps transferability (which I think it does and which I argue for here) that doesn’t mean that you never do any training and only allow people to experience the context. Training in context means that you try to educate about the context while you do some training to get people started – KNOWING that the training alone won’t accomplish all that’s needed.

Transferable training is a foundational yet unspoken VALUE of sorts for our organization.  Our particular approach to training betrays assumptions about development as all approaches to training do. In my opinion, CCC has gone too far in its assumptions about training.  In the past there has been a lot of communication reinforcing (& many seem to truly believe) that transferable training can do and does the whole job of leadership development or discipleship. Master the tools and skills of using those tools and you’ve mastered ministry (assuming proper spiritual foundations). Organizationally, a strong case can be made that we’ve trusted in training too much rather than seeing it as having a place or a particular role within development. Development and discipleship efforts can include transferable training, but they must go beyond it. Because people are more than what they can do.

Here are some general observations that I’ve made. They may not apply everywhere, but they’re consistent enough to mention.  An over-dependence on transferable training within one’s ministry philosophy and practice often bears some of the following fruit:

  • Skills end up taking precedence over relationships.
  • Cross-cultural efforts struggle because there’s unspoken expectations that others who are different will fit into our boxes. We might not even be aware that is our expectation.
  • Performance and skill competence becoming driving unspoken values in leadership selection and in development, to the neglect of  other foundational and often more important leadership qualities and capacities.
  • Doing overwhelms being. Because training is often related to doing, doing wins out over being. This has many implications – limited emotional presence and maturity being one of them.
  • Increased pride in our way of doing things.  Attitudes develop that kill partnership postures and flexibility.
  • Uniqueness and gifting is minimized in favor of conformity to the system.  Training systems are geared towards getting people to doing all the same things more or less.  Executing the program becomes more important than serving people in a context.  “Just do the training. It works!”  That has implications not just for your audience, but for your own soul and identity in living out who you are in leadership and ministry.
  • Pragmatism wins out over authentic servanthood.  “What works” somehow transcends “what’s loving.”  Similarly, matters of justice or of ethical consequence can be minimized or overlooked when there is such zealousness for productivity.

The future of CRU and ministry will call for people to be equipped to be the type of people that can step into different contexts and build trust and relationships.  The days of being able to depend on skill training and tools in mass are over – though we never want to stop innovating tools!

Transferable tools will always have their place. But let’s remember, the heart of ministry is people and relationships.  And people are not transferable. We can’t celebrate diversity within the body and in God’s creation, but then expect everyone to “get it” in the same ways through the same methods.  It always comes back to real people learning to serve and love others. If your approach or assumptions about training hijacks that, then your train is off the tracks.

Because transferable training has been such a central cornerstone for our organization, discussions about culture and race and ethnicity are often harder to engage than is necessary.  We fear opening the door to new paradigms will be a betrayal of our foundations.  Does this have to be the case?

One thing it does means is that the future of training for CRU – to be fruitful in the ways we talk about wanting to be fruitful organizationally – will mean a more holistic training that maintains a learning posture versus a teaching posture.

Organizationally, we need a self-check from time to time in this area of training. It’s healthy and good to examine the assumptions that shape culture and whether our culture is bearing the fruit we ultimately are wanting over the long haul and that honor God.

**Transferable tools can relate to evangelism, discipleship, conferences, trainings, curriculum, and other things.  There’s an important distinction between the tools themselves and a minister or leader’s relationship to those tools.

How do you navigate the role of transferable tools in our ministry and how do you guard against those things that can spring forth from an over-dependence on transferable training?