This post is related to the Canoeing the Mountains seminar and book of the same name that we are offering with Tod Bolsinger on June 1, 2017.

It’s a great title for a book because it immediately prompts a dissonant ring in our heads. It is immediately obvious that you canoe on lakes and rivers, but not in or through mountains. It is a great way to get one to sit up and take notice because that phrase didn’t make any sense.

I would like that dissonant ring to be seen for what it is — a long, loud, and wailing warning siren.

The greatest challenge for the church is not that people aren’t trying hard or doing their best to lead their congregations. The challenge is that the “best” practices that worked in certain contexts (like church 30 years ago) are no longer “best” in the rapidly changing contexts we find ourselves today. New practices are required.

The “management speak” that captures this shift of context and the necessary shift in practice is that of adaptive challenge and adaptive leadership. You can read more about this here.

Our team has found the video below offers a compelling, sense-making framework that helps us recognize what sort of problem-solving approach is required, depending on the situation. Some problems are well suited to our “best practices.” But some problems are sufficiently different in character that fresh approaches are required.  The Cynefin Framework helps us recognize the right approach for the right kind of challenge.


Leading the church in ways that is faithful to its call in today’s world requires us to recognize the challenge as a complex one. It is a challenge that doesn’t respond well to “best practices” of a previous generation. If we rely on those previous best practices, we will find ourselves working harder but with disappointing returns. It can be very frustrating and soul-sapping… kind of like trying to canoe through mountains.

Join us on June 1, 2017 for an afternoon to learn how to adjust your thinking, communicate the kind of challenge before your congregation, and begin leading your congregation in ways that will be effective for the new, complex, adaptive challenges that we face today.


Geoff Hsu
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