Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Pastoral Leadership


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Kristine Lund

Advisor Role

Academic Advisor


Shifting trends within and beyond the walls of the church are reshaping Christianity in our present context. Many Christian denominations are in the midst of a paradigm shift as great as or greater than the 16th century Reformation. Because the way forward looks nothing like the path the church has journeyed, church leaders, theologians, and scholars recognize the need for innovative and adaptive leadership expertise to meet the opportunities and challenges of the present time. For more than two decades, Mennonite Church Canada congregations have been on a journey of development, learning, and growth, transitioning theologically and experientially to a missional ministry framework. “Missional” is grounded in God’s missionary nature and Jesus’ post-resurrection instruction to his disciples (John 20:21).1 Undergirding “missional” ecclesiology is the conviction that God is ahead of God’s people, present and active in the local neighbourhood and the world. Thus, the church’s call is to join with God to further God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation. The transition underway for Mennonite Church Canada congregations not only leads to fresh encounters with the Divine but is also a process that potentially leads to the transformation of congregational culture. This narrative inquiry research project investigated that amidst the current unstable and changing context, narrative engagement with predominant congregational narratives is a vital leadership tool that can be utilized to lead organizational change. Stories within a culture, including congregational culture are containers of meaning, experience, values, assumptions, world views, and more. As humans, we live storied lives. As Christians, we locate ourselves within God’s unfolding story of salvation and redemption. Stories provide a framework to 1 All Biblical references New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). iii understand lived experience and they inform future action. Additionally, stories are an invaluable leadership resource in that they can be analyzed to identify barriers and facilitators. The process of telling and re-telling predominant congregational stories uncovers limiting narratives as well as the presence and activity of God. Re-storying is a process of living into new stories which God is writing amongst us for God has said, “See I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19). Literature in the field of pastoral leadership has focused heavily upon missional ecclesiology, organizational change, and adaptive leadership theory. Organizational culture change and narrative leadership theory provide unique lenses through which to examine and analyze pastors’ lived experience. Through open-ended focus group interviews, research participants were invited to share stories about their lived experiences adapting and responding to change. Analyzing the storied lives of seventeen experienced pastoral leaders, barriers, that is, obstacles that risk keeping a congregational system stuck were identified. Additionally, facilitators, that is strengths, capacities, and hope-filled stories that shimmer with the presence and activity of God were also identified. Leaders can effectively initiate change through stories as both barriers and facilitators are identified, examined, and when necessary re-storied. As new stories are embedded in an organizational system, individuals grasp what the change involves and why it may be desirable. New stories can effectively usher in a new life stage and propel the church into God’s future, thus impacting culture change within Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) congregations and beyond.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Religion Commons