Monday, February 02, 2009
Staff and Families
We had our annual Staff and Famiies Conference at Papamoa near Tauranga. We had fantastic weather and a good time together. A number of things encourage me about the staff team.
First of all it is bigger. One of the aims I presented to the board in early 2006 was that we would double the staff team in three years. This has been achieved despite some people leaving and with the addition of some Kiwis. The growth of the Fellowship of the King has been really encouraging and the way each story connects is humbling.
Secondly there is a growing commitment to the centrality of God's word. Peter Hughes from Australia did an excellent job in speaking from Colossians and Paul Windsor made some telling observations on the place of preaching and teaching in New Zealand. Paul's conclusion was that preaching CAN be transformative in New Zealand and that he is encouraged by some of the teachers who are emerging but he made 5 telling points which I think have resonance beyond these shores.
He spoke of 5 priorities arising against 5 longer term concerns.
A wider understanding - we have been too simplistic
A deeper conviction - we have been too superficial
A stronger confidence - we have been too distracted
A fuller commitment - we have been too narrow
A longer obedience - we have been too impatient
He used an interesting word. The need to "recalibrate". One of my concerns in the later years with UCCF was that faced with the opportunity to recalibrate we had a tendency to retrench.
Thirdly we have got better at accepting the differences between us. This continues to be a struggle and one that we add to ourselves from time to time. It is hard for any of us to see the cultural baggage that we carry. The leadership challenge is to see how we celebrate the unique contribution each can bring to the team while trying to promote some critical self reflection. Vicky Elgar Roberts led an excellent session on bi-culturalism for us sharing lessons from her own journey and helping our thinking on Maori. One of the statistics that stuck in my mind is that the government estimates that by 2050 37% of the primary school population in NZ will be Maori. This clearly has implications.
Fourthly we celebrate occassions. I think we have done better at saying goodbye and helping people with transition. The powhiri and hui have made important contributions to our times together. This year Chinese New Year fell on the first day of conference. Gina did a briliant job in helping us experience, understand and enoy the event and most of us wore at least something red to usher in the Year of the Ox.
Our Asian and Maori friends have helped us to appreciate the benefits of meeting around food and it was great to see some more mature graduates volunteering with both the provision and preparation of food.
Fifthly I think we are developing a culture of care. One of the things Pete and Audrey commented on was the way that the older kids look after the younger ones. It is also noticable that the staff without children or partners pitch in and participate. It is great to see people thinking about what they can give in a group context rather than what they can get. This also is an encouragement.
Sixthly we have fun. Jamie commented "we do not see the others very often but when we do we all get on well together". I really want camps and conferences to be times that people look forward to with anticipation and back on with gratitude, to have a right sense of privilege and an experience of party.
One of the great things about the site at Papamoa is the beach which is a stones throw from the camp site. We had fantastic weather for our "tide fight".
And also plenty opportunity to paddle, swim and boogie board.
The life guard helpfully pointed out that there were several hundred sharks in the bay but Kiwi sharks know that "people are friends not food".
Although I quite like the image of leadership or parenting as being trying to help people catch the waves to shore in the shark infested waters. Certainly you should be the one farthest out!
Seventhly we are giving prayer more of a priority in our time together. Prayer is not an easy thing but it is an important thing and there is great value in doing it together. If we are serious about growth we need to spend time talking to God not just talking about Him. I have certainly not got this one cracked but I feel we are making slow progress. Staff training is less about the transmission of information and more about the formation of character. One can of course facilitate the other but not automatically.
Eighthly I think there is a growing sense of team and of being in it together. I think this was the first event where we have not had a major fight about something. I do not believe that unity is marked by the absence of conflict but rather in its resolution. The peace still feels a little uneasy sometimes but I think we are managing to avoid some of the silly arguments and perhaps getting better at listening. Time will tell on this one.
So overall a high flying staff and families conference. Certainly our biggest and possible our best yet. Great to welcome Rachel Turner and husband Dave, Rachel is going to work on communications in the office, Nicola to a new role in finance, Elliot and Paul to campus work in Auckland. We have a few outstanding visa issues especially for Anna, Gillian and Sarah which it woud be fantastic to see resolved and I could really do with a new PA.
And so the sun sets on another school holiday. We circumnavigated the globe, spent time on 4 continents, met a lot of family and friends, have some great memories and experienced a lot of kindness support, encouragement and hospitality.
Time, then, for another start to a school year. This is the new academic year in the Southern hemisphere. Luke moves into year 11 and will have the first of his big exams later this year. Jamie moves from St Marks into Wellington College year 9 to start secondary school. We are delighted that he got in when over 200 boys who wanted to did not. He is in one of the A stream classes which we think he will really enjoy and is in the same class and cricket team as Sam Becroft as well as a few of his friends from St Marks. Craig for the first time in his life is at school with no older brothers. He is a bit sad that most of his friends from last year are in the other year 6 class but likes his new teacher.
For Jamie in particular today marked a bit of a life point. Not only did he start secondary school but he turned 13. He discovered that there are two other boys in his form class with the same birthday as him. More exciting than that was driving in this morning we were listening to The Breeze (our local wellington radio station). Every Monday they draw one of the kids club members who has a birthday that week and Jamie was surprised and delighted when they said and "todays winner is Jamie Pollock who is 13 today and also starting at Wellington College today". So at tea time a 10 inch chocolate cake arrived courtesy of The Chocolate Factory.
It came with his name iced on and Ailsa added some candles. It seems strange having two teenage sons. I marked the occassion by joining the gym for the first time in NZ in an attempt to get back to end of Edinburgh fitness levels. Tomorrow I head up to Raumati to do a couple of sessions with the new Minty crew. We have six this year which is brilliant. I have also succumbed to peer pressure and joined face book. Well to be more accurate I have started using the face book account I set up a couple of years ago. I think that now means there are 21 ways that I can be contacted, 22 if you include shouting at me in the street and 23 if you want to try semaphore, carrier pigeon (24) or asking questions after a talk (25). Still feel free to look me up.
Or send me a message in a bottle (which would be 26).