Fire and Ice

Do you recognise any of the following perspectives? Have you heard them expressed before?

  • “We are just a faith community, we don’t really have a voice in the big Church structures.”
  • “We are doing things so differently, people outside this congregation just don’t get it.”
  • “That group isn’t doing faith formation or worship. They aren’t really a church.”
  • “My sense of call in ministry doesn’t really fit the formal church structures. I’ve got to keep my distance.”
  • “The Synod is just always asking us to report what we are doing, check their boxes and meet their requirements. It feels like there’s no valuing of what is actually happening in peoples lives in this project.”
  • “We are trying to connect with people who are post-church so we don’t advertise with the Uniting Church Logo, or anything overtly Christian.”
  • “We’ve had lots of challenges, and we have tried to ask for help, but most of the time we just have to figure it out on our own. We find that much of what we are doing is for the first time. Other churches don’t know how to help.”



  • What are your personal responses to the various perspectives listed above? Which ones do you identify with most strongly?
  • What happens to each of the perspectives above if you rephrase them adding curiosity to the statement? For example “We are doing things so differently, I wonder how we might help people outside the project to get it?
  • Why do you think an innovator might be reluctant to engage with formal structures?
  • Where else in life do we see the mainstream structures and the boundary pushing elements struggling to connect or relate to each other?
  • What are the unique perspectives and abilities that are brought by innovators?
  • What are the unique perspectives and abilities that are brought formal structures?
  • If innovators, and those who are more traditional or structural in their approach to church were in a positive relationship, what might be the outcome?
  • How can you make space for both groups of people in your community?
  • Is it important for projects to have strong links with the wider church? What are the risks? What are the benefits?

Wisdom from the pews

“It is common for there to be antagonism, or distancing between innovative projects or congregations and the wider church. In many cases, those involved in non-traditional pioneering work have low levels of belonging, awareness or understanding of the UCA and its structures. ”

“These struggles are normal, but there is an opportunity to discover better ways of working together across it. Pioneering or innovative ministry teams will benefit from permission to focus on what they do best, without requirements to participate extensively in existing church structures. ”

“Placing too many demands on these groups will slow down the development of their project. Equally, these groups may not always realise the ways they can be a gift to, and receive from, different elements in the wider church. ”

“Careful consideration needs to be given as to how we engage with innovators when it comes to more central or traditional roles in the formal church structures, as clearly there is value in having their wisdom heard.”

Going deeper

Understanding Movements as different to institutions

A series of video content from Alan Hirsch exploring the elements that make up a missional movement:

Find more from Alan