My Professional Development Group Wants Me To Stop Looking At Models

I’m back home after three days with my professional development group. For three years now we’ve pegged a week in early December to gather for mutual support, encouragement, and growth. 75 minute conversations about particular cases each of us present are the scaffolding of our schedule (here’s the format we use for those–it’s super helpful).

We also eat good food and laugh a lot. Like, a lot.


Models are enticing. They look so perfect, and they make such promises. Three simple steps. Follow the process. Results guaranteed.

Of course, it’s not all the models’ fault. There’s a whole operation around presenting the model, smoothing out its blemishes, dangling it before a needy audience. Yes, the model is penultimate. It’s there to sell something else: a program. A lifestyle.

Of course I mean organizational models.

I asked my group this week for some models for conceiving of my work and my church and all the programs, hoping for book titles and church websites for me to consult, download, and apply.


They said, “You’re the model.” More fully, they said, “What you’re doing is becoming a model, but only for you and only for now.”

We can compare all the models and choose one to define what we want to do: relational. Missional. Emergent. I’ve adopted all of them at one point or another. I’ve read the books, taking furious notes. I’ve subscribed to the blogs and the podcasts, and not for naught; I haven’t learned nothing.

There is a siren song in all of it, though, chanting that the work is merely dutiful application of other peoples’ methods, intoning zero accountability for failure, because you can simply blame the model and pick a new one.

The real work is much more difficult and more more interesting, and that is to do what we know and what we love where we are, trusting that the people who put us there weren’t mistaken, learning all we can–not about new models, but about our craft and our people.



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