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Publication Date

Summer 6-19-2017


This study maintained two concurrent goals: First, it sought to strengthen the adaptive leadership capacities of a senior pastor by initiating a three-month action-learning experiment among the ministry staff. Second, it invited the ministry staff to begin a journey of discovering the leading of God’s Spirit in the local context. The work was conducted in First Presbyterian Church of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and within the local community.

Beginning with a look at the myriad changes that have transpired in the church and community during the past ten years, this project describes various types of change, the leadership philosophies that address different types of change, and how missional theology informs leadership. Adaptive leadership is required to address the discontinuous changes within the ministry context when seen through the lens of missional theology rooted in Luke 2, the missio Dei, and doctrine of the incarnation. In order to develop adaptive leadership capacities, the senior pastor lead the ministry staff in a three-month action-learning experiment in the community. The six members of the ministry staff devoted 10 percent of their work time to building relationships with people in the community, modeled after Luke 10:1-12. For accountability and reflection, the ministry staff met six times to share stories about their learning through Appreciative Inquiry questions and qualitative interview questions.

The study demonstrated that default assumptions of mission and ecclesiology are challenged when a staff experiments with new behaviors that require interaction with community members. This learning requires space for intentional reflection about the experimental behavior. The community experiments challenged specific defaults concerning reciprocity and managing expectations. While the staff reflection times challenged leadership defaults concerning technical leadership proficiency, accountability, clergy-centric ecclesiology. The study revealed the need for ongoing practices of action and reflection within the ministry context.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Roxburgh, Alan J.

Document Type





adaptive leadership, change, missional




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November 2018

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