Grounding Mission to Experience
View the poster >>
Given that the St. Francis Inn Team at Kensington, Philadelphia has failed to establish a thorough practice of evaluation and reflection, how might they institute a practice wherein they can reflect on and discern their ministerial experiences, individually and as a group in relation to their mission?
Six internal structures of St. Francis Inn were evaluated in terms of their role in providing opportunities to develop a method of evaluation for the resident team that runs its restaurant-style free meal service, thrift store, women’s empowerment center, and urban ministries. The team uses these structures across the major facets of their ministerial and community life: board of directors, consensus in an egalitarian team, working committees, Monday meetings, team retreats, monthly reflection on St. Francis Guidelines for Ministry. Personal communications were conducted twice with each of the twelve members of the team. The first round was on their individual histories and general background of their experiences in St. Francis Inn. Their extensive history and background were used to construct the context of the study and to identify the underlying issues that emerged in the process, such as balancing spirituality of divine providence with contextual demands, institutional co-dependency, a crisis-reactive approach to ministry and deficiency in meta-reflection. The second tier of personal communication addressed their issues and ideas regarding their practice of reflection and evaluation. The team’s input provided a composite of diverse experiences and insights that were integrated to the evaluation of each of the six structures. After each evaluation, specific interventions were recommended for each of the structures. Interventions were contingent on the issues that were evaluated in each of the structures.
Altogether, the six structures were further analyzed through a theological, psychological and personal standpoint. The theological lens includes scriptures, methods of theological reflection and the Franciscan paradigm. The psychological lens includes the practice of mindfulness, brain function during change, meta-vantage. The author’s personal standpoint focused on how the entire process of his encounters with the team members rigorously informed and deepened his understanding of the dilemmas they faced in developing a method of evaluation. The integrated insights of team members show that by intending to create opportunities for reflection, they can assume distance from the team and their ministry and thus recognize their individual needs as ministers and how that plays into the systems that run the St. Francis Inn.