THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE AND YOUTH MINISTRY
I recently read a management book by Peter Senge entitled, The Fifth Discipline. Senge believes that a new approach to
leadership is needed. Traditionally our approach to leading an organisation has been based on control. The four tasks of
management were said to be: Planning, Organising, Leading and Controlling. Even in the church, organisational
structures tend to be based on control. The pastor believes his job is to ensure the reins are held tightly and the ship is
kept on track. As the world has become increasingly complex we need to rethink leadership for a postmodern world.
Senge suggests that the new paradigm for leadership must be based on systems thinking and should includes four other
disciplines (personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning). A brief overview of the five disciplines
follows and then further implications for youth ministry for each discipline are explored.
1. Systems Thinking
The world is not a place dominated by separate unrelated forces. Just as in nature, business and human endeavours
involve invisible and interrelated actions that have an effect on each other. Because we are not used to seeing the whole
we never come to grips with all that is involved because we fail to operate with a systems mindset. We will be able to
bring and sustain growth in an organisation if we understand the factors that foster and hinder growth. We need to
create a ministry environment that is a learning organisation - where people continually expand their capacity to achieve
the results they desire, where new patterns of thinking are fostered, where collective aspiration is shared and pursued
and where people continually learn how to learn together.
2. Personal Mastery
This discipline suggests that people in the organisation need to reach a certain level of proficiency. People with a high
level of personal mastery are able to consistently achieve the results that they deeply desire. This discipline involves
being able to clarify and deepen our personal vision, to focus our energies, to develop patience and to see reality
objectively. Controlling organisations do not encourage the development of personal mastery. If we understand that
each part of the system is vital we will work to develop each part to it greatest potential.
3. Mental Models
Mental models are the assumptions that we carry in our minds about reality. They influence how we understand the
world and the action that we take. We are mostly unaware of these models and need to begin to discover ways in which
we view the world and learn to critically evaluate them.
4. Shared Vision
An organisation that works is bound around a common identity and sense of destiny. Where there is a shared vision
people will be keen to work and learn together. We will need to work hard at developing a shared picture of our future
that will foster genuine commitment and enrolment rather than compliance. It is counterproductive to try to dictate a
vision - no matter how heartfelt it is!
5. Team Learning
A team has the potential to be more intelligent than the individuals. Together people are able to develop extraordinary
capacities for co-ordinated action. This only starts to happen when we move away from discussion (where team
members throw ideas back and forth in a winner-takes all attempt to influence others with their thoughts) to dialogue
(which involves suspending assumptions and entering into genuine thinking together. Until patterns of defensiveness
are recognised learning will be hindered.
These five disciplines must work together - although at the heart lies the discipline of systems thinking. It is the
discipline that integrates the disciplines. Vision without systems thinking has a great idea of where the ministry should
go, but won't get there because it does not realise there are forces hindering it getting there. Building shared vision
produces the commitment needed to endure change. Mental models help us to see shortcomings in the way that we see
the world around us. Team learning helps to develop groups of people who are able to look beyond individual
perspectives. Personal mastery brings the personal motivation that keeps people learning how their actions affect the
world and helps them move away from a reactive mindset.
1. Systems Thinking
The field of discipline known as systems thinking has taught us how to see the structures that affect situations and to
know how to bring change. Until we start to take a wider look at the situations we face in youth ministry, we will never
understand what is actually going on, nor will we know how to bring change. We have to start seeing interrelationships
rather than linear cause-effect chains. Too often we only see individual actions instead of the structures underlying the
actions. This usually means that we go around looking for someone to blame when something goes wrong. A systems
thinking approach teaches us that everyone shares responsibility for a problem generated within a system. It also
encourages everyone to work together synergistically to bring change.
For example, if we have a youth group that is not growing or achieving it's goals a non-systems approach would be to
step in and immediately get rid of the group leader. Our reasoning would be that doing so will change the system.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the leader may only be one factor in the system that is hindering growth. They may be
a key factor, but most probably are not the only factor. When I approach the "problem" with a systems thinking
approach I will seek to take a wider look at the group situation and seek to discover various factors that are hindering
growth. I will not look for a scapegoat to blame for the problem, but work with all involved in the group to bring about
A system has two processes at work within it: (1) Reinforcing processes - these cause growth to occur in a system; and
(2) Balancing processes - these cause growth to either stop or be delayed. Pure accelerating growth or decline seldom
occurs unchecked in nature - sooner or later limits will be encountered which will slow, slop or divert growth.
In youth ministry we must watch for balancing processes that will hinder growth. Learning to recognise that there are
factors present that will hinder growth is a start. Learning to identify them is the next step. It is helpful to ask yourself
periodically, "What factors could be hindering growth?" or "What factors could cause our leaders to have difficulty
relating to the kids?" If we do this, and look at ways to change these factors, we will create more healthy group systems.
We must not just be concerned about solving a problem but also work on changing the thinking that caused the problem
in the first place. A quick-fix approach to youth ministry may mean that we end up facing the same problem in the
future. When, in a leadership team meeting, we deal with a problem that has arisen, we must not think that we are
finished with the issue until we have spent some time working through how to understand what caused the problem and
exploring ways to prevent the problem from reappearing.
Bringing change in a system is not about pushing harder. It is more important to identify the factors that are hindering
growth and deal with them. The best results come when we take small well-focused actions rather than large-scale
efforts. We are functioning wisely when we are continually on the look out for the little ways in which we can improve
our ministry. We need to ask ourselves questions like: "What one thing could we do as a leadership team that will help
us relate better to each other?" or "What one thing could I do in the life of one teenager this week that will help me get
to know them better and bring Christ into their world?"
Peter Senge presents eleven laws of systems thinking:
A. Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions. The way we solve one problem in the past may impact on
another problem in the future. Some solutions just shift the problem from one part of a system to another. Youth leaders
must be careful of solving a problem today in a way that will cause more problems tomorrow. It is important to solve
problem and not shift them to another part of the ministry.
B. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back at you. When something is not working - the solution is
not usually to push harder. Often a different approach is needed. To bring change we will need to think more carefully
and creatively about what needs to be done, rather than simply working harder. Often working smarter works better.
C. Behaviour grows better before it grows worse. There are many ways to get things to look better in the short-term,
but later the problem will end us worse. When we change one aspect of a system we may find a short term
improvement, but if we have nor adequately addressed underlying structures and issues, we will find that the problem
will get worse in time.
D. The easy way out usually leads back in. We often apply familiar solutions to problems because we like to stick
with what we know best. In order to ministry effectively among youth in the 21st century we are going to need to look
for new solutions to problems, rather than relying on ones that worked before.
E. The cure can be worse than the disease. Often a familiar solution is not only ineffective but it can be addictive or
dangerous. Shifting the burden is not the best way to deal with a problem. Any good solution to a problem will depend
on the ability of the system to shoulder it's own burdens
F. Faster is slower. All systems have built in optimal rates for change. The optimum rate is usually far less than the
fastest possible growth. This means that when there is quick growth the system will start to slow down to compensate
for the excessive growth.
G. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. The symptoms that suggest there is a problem often
take a while to manifest. This makes it hard to identify problems early enough.
H. Small changes can produce big results but areas of highest leverage are often least obvious. Small,
well-focussed actions can sometimes produce significant and lasting changes. Leaders need to look out for change that
will require minimum effort and which will bring about lasting improvement.
I. You can have your cake and eat it, but not all at once. We fail to realise that two options are not necessarily in
opposition to each other.
J. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. The integrity of a system depends on it being
a whole - we must explore the whole system and not deal in isolation. We must continually be asking, "What other
factors could be influencing this problem or situation?"
K. There is no blame. Instead of looking for outsider circumstances to blame for our problems we must realise that we
and the cause of the problem are part of the same system.
Brian McLaren, in Reinventing the Church, suggests that systems thinking has a number of implications for ministry.
Here are some of them:
A. Systems are interactive in an organism. Because they affect each other they need to be co-ordinated. If we want
youth to evangelise their friends, but provide so many events aimed at growing Christians that they have no time left to
build friendships with unchurched friends, we will discover that the two systems (evangelism and discipleship) work
against each other.
B. Systems experience limits to growth. The system will never be able to grow beyond a certain size or complexity
until these limits are recognised and removed.
C. Systems must eliminate waste and fight disease. Many youth ministries die because they do not recognise and
remove elements that harm the system.
D. Systems require infusions of energy. Unless we learn how to re-energise a group we will discover that it is prone to
E. Systems often benefit from diversity. The body analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 stresses the importance of each
different member in the body playing a significant role.
F. Systems tend towards achieving a sustainable balance or toward disorder. A system is always working towards
health or death. A system will sometimes throw itself out of balance to deal with a real or perceived threat. Systems can
become sick or dysfunctional.
G. Systems must be seen as part of the larger whole. In order to understand a group or church we need to consider
the many systems that it participates in: historical, cultural, economic, political and education. It is dangerous to see the
youth group as a separate entity from the larger church body.
Questions for Reflection:
(1) Do I use a systems approach when I deal with leadership issues and crises?
(2) Do I look broadly at areas of ministry to locate the interrelationships that exist?
(3) How can this input help me to be a more effective youth pastor?
(4) What do I need to change to become a systems thinking youth pastor?
2. Personal Mastery
The secret to organisational learning is the degree to which each individual is learning. Senge says that "managers must
redefine their job. They must give up 'the old dogma of planning, organising and controlling,' and realise 'the almost
sacredness of their responsibility for the lives of so many people. Managers fundamental task is providing the enabling
conditions for people to lead the most enriching lives they can" (Page 140).
The discipline of personal mastery stresses the importance of the discipline of personal growth and learning. People
involved in our youth ministry structures need to reach a certain level of proficiency. It is only people with a high level
of personal mastery who are able to consistently achieve the results that they deeply desire.
The heart of this discipline involves more than acquiring a new set of skills. It involves living life from a creative as
opposed to a reactive point of view. We will achieve personal mastery as we continually clarify what is important to us
and as we continually learn how to see current reality more clearly.
The gap between our vision (what we want) and the current reality (where we are at the moment) creates creative
tension. Personal mastery is all about learning how to generate and sustain creative tension in our lives. Youth leaders
will be more effective if they are able to apply the creative tension to developing better ways of leading youth; better
strategies to address different needs; and more effective programmes.
This discipline involves continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, focusing our energies, developing
patience and seeing reality objectively. Only when we start to live our lives in the service of our highest aspirations will
be move towards personal mastery. Until youth leaders identify and connect with their sense of purpose and passion
they will not be effective.
Controlling churches do not encourage the development of personal mastery. However, if they understand that each part
of the system is vital then they would work to develop each part to it greatest potential. We must remember that the
strength of the whole depends on the strength of the parts.
Leaders with a high level of personal mastery have the following characteristics: behind their vision and goals lies a
special sense of purpose; they see current reality as an ally and not an enemy; they know how to work with the forces
of change; they are deeply inquisitive; they feel connected to life and to others; they don't try to control others, but work
together creatively with them; and they live in continual learning mode - they never 'arrive' - the journey is the reward!
Personal mastery is not something that you possess. It is a process - a lifelong discipline. Those who attain high levels
of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence and their growth areas. Ironically they are
deeply self-confident. Self-esteem generates the confidence and creativity needed to tackle new challenges which leads
to personal mastery.
Youth pastors will want to help their youth leaders develop personal mastery because they will be more committed; take
more initiative; have a broader and deeper sense of responsibility in their ministry; and learn faster.
If we are going to help our youth leaders develop personal mastery we must focus on the following:
A. Personal Vision
When leaders focus on intrinsic desires and not on secondary goals they move towards personal mastery. Purpose is an
individuals sense of why they are alive. Fulfilment is mostly a result of living consistently with your purpose. Vision is
a bit different to purpose: it is a specific destination - a picture of a desired future. While purpose is abstract, vision is
concrete (for example, purpose is "being the best I can be" while vision is "breaking t four minutes in the mile"). We
must help our leaders to continually focus and refocus on what they truly want - on their vision!
B. Creative Tension
It is one thing to discover our vision, but another thing to face current reality. There is usually a gap between our vision
and reality. This gap can make us think that our vision is unrealistic or fanciful. It can discourage us and make us feel
hopeless or it can be a source of energy that helps us take action to reach our vision. Sometimes people lose sight of
their vision or lower their goals because they feel unable to fulfil their vision - but they can use the creative tension to
reach their goals. All creative people know that all creating is achieved as they work within constraints. Without
constraints there is no creating.
C. Positive Beliefs
Many people believe that they are not able to reach their goals or vision. If we can overcome the belief that we are
powerless (we cannot bring into being all we care about) and the belief that we are unworthy (we don't deserve what we
truly desire) we will move towards personal mastery. The way to do this is through telling the truth. Leaders must
continually root out the ways in which they limit or deceive themselves from seeing what is. They must stop themselves
from blaming people for problems they encounter. They must engage more positively with seeing to bring about
Youth pastors must realise that they can't force people to embark on the path of personal mastery. Rather, they should
work to create an environment in which the principles of personal master are practised in everyday life. This means we
must create an environment in which it is safe for leaders to create vision, where we are committed to the truth and
where we expect people to challenge the status quo. As youth pastors model personal mastery - as they are committed to
their own personal mastery - they will do more than if they just talk about it.
Questions for Reflection:
(1) What am I doing to pursue personal mastery in my own life?
(2) What am I doing to help my leaders pursue personal mastery?
3. Mental Models
Why is it that the best ideas are never put into practise? It is because the new ideas conflict with deeply held internal
images of how the world works. Until we learn to surface, to test and improve our internal picture of how the world
works we will not overcome this barrier.
We carry around in our heads images, assumptions and stories. The story of The Emperor's New Clothes shows how
people can be bound by their mental models. These mental models control how we see the world and the action that we
take. These can be generalisations (ie. people are basically lazy) or complex theories (ie. a set of assumptions about why
family members act the way they do).
Two people can observe the same event and see something different. This is because they focus on different details, and
have different approaches to deal with what they see. When the mental models operate below a level of awareness
they are even harder to detect.
In traditional organisations the approach was to manage, organise and control. In the new learning organisation the
approach involves vision, values and mental models. We need to bring people together and help them to develop the
best possible mental models for facing any situation at hand. When people are able to more openly discuss the different
ways in which they view the world, they will become more productive.
We must get people to understand that they always see the world through their mental models and that their mental
models are always incomplete. We mostly deal with our assumptions, rather than truth itself.
The need to develop skills to deal with mental models. Some are reflection skills (these help us slow down our own
thinking processes so we become aware of how we form our mental models and recognise how they affect our actions)
and others are inquiry skills (these show us how we interact with other people). The skills are:
A. Recognising Leaps of Abstraction
This skills is about becoming aware of the ways in which we jump from observations to generalisations. Because our
brain works so fast we seldom stop to test our generalisations. Learning is limited when we are unaware of the leaps we
make from particular to general concepts. We can overcome this if we ask ourselves what we believe about the way the
world works. We must discover the data on which our view are held and then consider the possibility that our
generalisations are inaccurate or misleading. Where possible we need to test the generalisations directly to see whether
they are true.
B. Exposing the Left Hand Column
This skills involves discovering the things that are left unsaid in a conversation. It involves taking a situation that is not
working well or where there is conflict or difference of opinion and writing out on the right side of the page, the script
(ie. exactly what is being said). Next write down on the left column what you are thinking, but not saying in the
dialogue. This exercise helps to surface assumptions and show how they influence behaviour. It will show how we often
talk around an issue and fail to face our problems directly. It will help us to discover why we so often fail to bring up
the real problem or issues that need to be spoken about. We usually discover that we need to articulate our own view
more clearly and also learn more about the other person's views.
C. Balancing Inquiry and Advocacy
Leaders need to be strong advocates - able to solve problems and figure out what needs to be done, and able to debate
forcefully and influence others. But the skills of advocacy must be balanced with inquiry skills where they are open to
learning from other people. Asking key questions is the key: "What is it that leads you to that position?" "Can you
illustrate that point for me?" or "Can you give me more data to support your position?" It is crucial to combine both
inquiry and advocacy skills in leadership. Just asking questions is not enough. When we are operating with pure
advocacy we are trying to win an argument, but when we are operating with advocacy and inquiry the goal is to find the
best argument. It involves being open to confirm or reject data and views. When we don't agree with someone's view we
must learn to inquire into them.
Here are some guidelines for inquiry and advocacy in different contexts: (1) When advocating your view: (a) make your
own reasoning clear, (b) encourage others to explore your view, (c) encourage them to provide different views and (d)
actively inquire into other's views that are different from yours. (2) When inquiring into other's views: (a) state the
assumptions you have made about their views and acknowledge that they are assumptions; (b) state the data on which
you assumptions are based; (c) don't ask questions if you are not genuinely interested in the response. (3) When you
arrive at an impasse: (a) ask what data might change their view; (b) ask if there is an experiment you can design to
provide new information. (4) When you or others are hesitant to express your views or to experiment with alternative
ideas: (a) encourage them to think our loud about what might make it difficult; (b) design other ways of overcoming the
D. Espoused Theory versus Theory-in-Use
Facing up to the theories we say we hold to and the theories we actually use. Sometimes we get new language and
concepts but our behaviour stays unchanged. The key is to ask ourselves whether we truly hold the theory we claim to
hold. It is often necessary to get the help of a partner to help you detect differences between what you say and what you
I believe that in youth ministry we must learn to identify our own mental models and learn to identity the mental
models that others hold. A youth pastor and senior pastor relationship will be filled with differences of opinion that
stem from different view of the world that are held. If we ignore these models we will never learn to work together in a
constructive way. We all make leaps of abstraction; we leave things unsaid in the left column, we prefer to advocate our
own ideas rather than inquire into the ideas that others hold and we may even be guilty of not practising what we say we
believe. The skills of reflection and inquiry mentioned above are key to effective leadership in youth ministry.
4. Shared Vision
This discipline answers the question: "What do we want to create?" A vision is only shared when we have a similar
picture and are committed to one another having it. When we care about something together wee will find a shared
vision. We do not have shared vision when one person tries to impose their vision on an organisation. This brings, at
best, compliance and not commitment. A vision is only shared when many people are truly committed to it and when it
reflects their own personal vision.
The benefits of shared vision are: It is exhilarating. It uplifts people's aspirations. It changes people's relationship to the
organisation. It compels courage - which can be defined as doing whatever is needed in the pursuit of a vision. It creates
the learning organisation because it provides the common goal to which people strive. It makes us more willing to grow,
to change and to learn. It fosters risk taking and experimentation. It brings long term commitment.
How do we build shared vision?
A. Encourage Personal Vision
Shared vision emerges from personal vision. People need their own vision or they will simply sign up for someone
B. Encourage Individual Contribution
Get each person to see how their personal vision contributes to the shared vision. People must be co-creators in the
vision building process. Stress that vision is nor announced from "on high" but "bubbles up" from below.
C. Share Your Vision
Leaders must continually share their vision with their followers and ask: "Will you follow me?"
D. Live the Vision
Leaders do more to share the vision when they solve daily problems with the vision in mind than when they give
passionate speeches about vision.
E. Allow Time for Incubation
When we realise that shared visions grows as a by-product of individual visions we know that it will tae time to
develop. Ongoing conversation is necessary. In particular, we must bee ready to listen to the ideas and vision of other
people, even allowing multiple vision co-exist until we find the right course of action that will transcend and unify all
our individual visions.
F. Look for Enrolment and Commitment
Enrolment is a process of becoming part of something by choice. This is better than compliance to a vision - where
people go along with someone else's vision. The best state is commitment where people feel responsible for making the
vision happen. People are enrolled or committed when they want, not just accept, the vision. How do we get enrolment?
(1) be enrolled yourself; (2) be honest about the vision and potential problems; (3) let people choose - when we try to
force commitment we end up with compliance.
G. Anchor the Vision
The vision must be expressed in terms of the larger picture or governing ideas that answer three questions: (1) What?
This is the Vision - a picture of the future we want to create. (2) Why? This is the Mission or Purpose - the answer to
why we exist as an organisation. (3) How? This is Core Values - the way in which we want to act on the way to
achieving our vision.
The vision spreads when it is expressed more clearly, when people are enthusiastic; when it is communicated; when
people are committed to it. People need to feel that they can contribute to the vision.
Youth pastors or youth leaders cannot rest until the entire ministry has a shared vision that is owned by everyone - one
to which various people have contributed to developing. They must not force their vision on people, but follow the
guidelines presented here for building shared vision.
Vision casting needs to be a team process if ownership (enrolment and commitment) is to be developed. If they have not
done so already they should father the leaders of all the youth group under their oversight and engage in a vision
forming process. They could use the three questions: (What? Why? How?) to create a set of governing ideas for the
Youth leaders must also live the vision (both verbally and behaviourally); encourage their leaders to express their
personal visions and see how they contribute to the shared vision; they must allow time for the shared vision to emerge;
and not be satisfied until people are committed to it.
5. Team Learning
In many teams the energy of individuals work against each other. This is called an 'unaligned team'. Alignment occurs
when a group of people function as a whole. When individual efforts harmonise energy is harnessed and the result is
synergy: commonality of purpose; shared vision and an understanding of how to complement one another's efforts.
Team learning is the process of aligning and developing the capacity of the team to create the results the members
desire. It has three dimensions: (1) People need to think deeply together about complex issues; (2) People need to act in
spontaneous, yet co-ordinated ways; and (3) Teams need to interact with other teams for collective learning to take
Teams learn through dialogue and discussion. In dialogue people freely and creatively explore problems by listening to
each other while suspending their personal views. In discussion different views are defended and the best view is
searched for. Team learning also involves dealing with the factors that hinder dialogue and discussion - ie. defensive
routines like smoothing over differences or forcing one's view onto the team.
In discussion, people are trying to win an argument, or to have their view accepted by the group. It does not tend to
result in coherence and truth. Dialogue is needed - where individuals access a larger pool of common meaning that
cannot be tapped into by individuals. The purpose of dialogue is to get beyond one individuals understanding. When
people are willing to suspend their assumptions (although they should communicate them freely) they will be able to
explore complex issues from different points of view. The purpose is to reveal incoherence in thought. In dialogue
people see their thinking is active and they begin to separate themselves from their thought. This helps them take a more
creative, less reactive stance towards their thought.
For dialogue to happen, three things are needed: (1) everyone must suspend their assumptions - and hold them up to
examination; (2) everyone must regard each other as colleagues who are engaged in a mutual quest for deeper insights
and clarity; and (3) there must be a facilitator who keeps people dialoguing and moving forward.
When people hold their positions more "gently" they will discover larger understandings. When we defend our point of
view we should do it more gracefully and less rigidly.
Great teams are not characterised by an absence of conflict, but experience conflict as production. Conflict is a part of
ongoing dialogue as the free flow of conflicting ideas is encourages.
Leaders who believe that they always need to know all the answers tend to close themselves to alternative views and
make themselves uninfluenceable.
Youth ministry tends to function, to some degree at least, with a team learning philosophy. Most youth groups are run
by a team of young adult or student leaders. All the potential for team learning is present. We can probably all testify to
times when a leadership team has created an approach or a terms programmes that could never have been achieved by
one individual working alone. Unfortunately, learning is often limited because more discussion than dialogue takes
place. Also, leaders often have a negative view of conflict which means that they seldom harness conflict to engage in
dialogue that will create new realities.
Making it Work
Peter Senge ends his book by looking at a number of factors that leaders will need to consider if they are going to
successfully move from a controlling organisation to a learning organisation.
There must be honesty and openness in all communication. I may start with all the youth leaders getting together to talk
about what is really important to them. Two kinds of openness are needed: (1) Participative - where people are free to
speak their minds and to state their views. (2) Reflective - where people look inward and challenge their own thinking.
We must create a leadership climate in which it is safe to speak openly and challenge one's own and others' thinking.
Certainly is the enemy of openness - when we believe that we already have all the answers we will not be motivated to
our thinking. Youth leaders need to believe and act in a way that shows that any answer they have is at best an
approximation - there is always room for improvement. When conversing, leaders must be willing to suspend their
certainly, share their thinking and be willing to have their thinking influenced. This will lead to a depth of insight not
Leaders struggle to know how to delegate and still co-ordinate ministry. Localness means moving decision down the
organisational hierarchy - giving people freedom to act, to try out new ideas while being responsible for producing
results. The principles of the learning organisation help with the feeling of the loss of control. Leaders must truly want
to develop a more locally controlled organisation. People in the youth ministry leadership teams must want the extra
responsibility and freedom that will result. The five disciplines need to be implemented: (1) Shared Vision ensures that
people are working with the same end in mind; (2) Mental Models help leaders to share a common view of the world;
(3) Team Learning helps with the interaction between leaders and ministry teams; (4) Personal Mastery is key because
leaders must lead as well as manage; and (5) Systems Thinking helps people see the interconnectedness of their actions
outside their local sphere. This all suggests a new role for the youth pastor - that of researcher and designer. As
researcher they research youth ministry as a system and try to understand the forces driving change. As designer they
design learning processes so leaders can understand these trends and forces. Finally, leader must believe in and practise
forgiveness. When risks are taken, mistakes will be made. This means that sometimes relationships will need to be
mended as forgiveness leads to reconciliation.
Youth Pastors need to handle time better and find time to create the learning organisation. Unfortunately, few leaders
take time to reflect on their actions. They should not spend too much time dealing with minor issues, but have time to
focus on more complex issues. They also need to set aside time for thinking.
Youth pastors need to deal with the balance between work and family. They must want to balance both areas. They
should set goals for spending time with their families. The church also needs to limit the demands that are placed on
youth pastors to be out each evening of the week and work all day. One cannot build a learning organisation on the
foundation of broken homes and strained personal relationships. The five disciplines should be applied to the leaders
family life as well.
Learning organisations require a new view of leadership. The traditional view of leadership says that leaders are special
people who set direction, make key decision, and energise the troops. It basically regards people as powerless in need of
rescue. In a learning organisation leaders are viewed as designers, stewards and teachers who are responsible for
building organisations where people continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision and
improve shared mental models. As designer, leaders design the organisations policies, strategies and systems and
communicate the thinking behind them. They need to first design the vision, values and purpose of the ministry. As a
steward, leaders are responsible to steward the vision as they seek to integrate their and others vision into a shared
vision. As a teacher, leaders need to help people achieve more accurate and insightful views of reality. They must be
able to foster systemic understanding.
Building a learning organisation involves developing people who learn to see as systems thinkers see, who develop their
own personal mastery and who learn how to surface and restructure mental models, collaboratively.