Effective church leaders encourage tacit knowledge


“We know more than we can tell.” So said philosopher Michael Polanyi. It’s a powerful insight. In fact, I believe it is a crucial key to
effective leadership. Welcome to episode 9 in our 12 part series Effective
Church Leadership. It’s all about what Polanyi identified as
tacit knowledge. Effective leadership is an art that can be
taught. Jesus called twelve disciples into close fellowship,
a koinonia grouping. Ever since, the church has had the opportunity
and the privilege of developing leaders for unique roles. Sometimes being a Christian leader is seen
as a hard, unrewarding task. And sometimes it is. It can be very difficult, even heart-breaking
for lay and clergy. It is certainly demanding, but so are most
worthwhile things in life. And effective church leaders usually find
that some things they do bring blessing in unforeseen ways. There is no denying that the task facing church
leaders today is more urgent than ever. There is a loss of confidence in the institution
of the church. Virtually all the old-line denominations are
facing huge declines in membership and activity. Methodism in New Zealand has been in decline,
and denial, for a very long time. The time has come for radical revision of
how local church leaders go about their tasks. We need to ask again, what are the keys to
effective leadership? Here is one vitally important factor. It is called tacit knowledge. Using tacit knowledge can significantly shape
your congregational, group and indeed personal life. Tacit knowledge involves the incredible processing
power of body, mind and soul. It is the door to leadership which draws out
creativity and wisdom from yourself and others. It streams throughout the universe and is
also within you. You activate it through loving service, in
a koinonia group. You use it as gift and grace for others. In so doing you’ve drawn upon the most important
and elemental force in the universe. So what is it? It is conscious awareness of the things that you
really know that you know, but which can’t be described or written down
or turned into a formula. Quote, “We know more than we can tell.” That’s Polanyi I think this is what Jesus meant by the kingdom
of God. Christianity has a fundamental experiential
dimension, knowing with the head and the heart, the mind as well as with bodily strength. In other words our tacit knowledge of God
involves the response of the whole person. Concentrating on just the intellectual dimension
distorts the experience and wholeness becomes much harder to achieve. So don’t do that. Leaders have a much more important and exciting
task. It is the possibility of awakening aspects
of tacit knowledge found among the members of the congregation. Encouraging tacit knowledge to grow and
flourish. Such learning occurs in all learning environments
from pre-school to formal university classes to the work place and the social environment
and family life. Why not church too? What happens when tacit awareness is gradually
turned into explicit, articulated knowledge can be exhilarating. People eagerly anticipate what they are discovering
and learning. This is because they already know it from
within. “We know more than we can tell.” Many people thus experience a feeling that
they are doing something worthwhile. They’re challenged and nurtured to participate
and grow into what they already feel. They thus discover the dynamic nature of group
learning. They are no longer isolated; They find there are many opportunities to
share the new-found knowledge. This is because genuine enquiry has begun,
genuine answers (plural) emerge. Thus begins an emphasis on risk-taking, on trying new ideas and not being threatened
or diminished by feedback and results. Every person who is given the opportunity
to explore their tacit knowledge of Christian faith becomes an exemplar of Christ. Effective leaders are essentially stewards
of these innovative, “into-the-new,” directions. It is a process that can be identified as
the progressive revelation of God within. Sound stewardship encourages more and more
of the congregation into this kind of participation. Tacit knowledge transfer has always been and
will remain the essential teaching and learning function of the church. Learning to lead with explicit and tacit knowledge,
almost always improves communications. Leaders who recognise the gifts, resources
and talents within the congregational base, will want to communicate the core values revealed
by tacit awareness. Celebration of tacit knowledge affirms unexpected
gifts and talents. Leaders involved in such stewardship enjoy
nurturing the transfer of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. It is the key leadership task, but it is interesting,
fun, and challenging. I recommend doing it from cell groups to
synods. Celebrate unlocking and making articulate
tacit knowledge. “We know more than we can tell,” becomes
we can tell what we know by faith. Join me next week when we explore the concept
of service and stewardship. And thanks for watching.

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