Welcome to Opal Design Systems! This website overviews my forthcoming curriculum series on missional ministry in a post-Christian world. It also traces where this material came from, and shares other resources that go with it.

Opal Design Systems trains participants in churches, non-profit agencies, and ministry projects with the frameworks and tools they need for working in the emerging paradigm of intercultural ministry. The eight modules integrate theory, theology, and practice for how to organize ministry in ways that make sense in your own community, and that make sense for the different kinds of people you have on your teams. But how is this curriculum different from other books on related subjects? At least three things: integrative, interdisciplinary, and intercultural.

It integrates multiple ways of processing information to connect with more kinds of learners. This has a lot to do with learning styles and creativity, and the more technical theological division of epistemology – how we know what we know. Approaching training various ways lets me present material in different formats that customize it for those who grasp things best when it involves verbal (print, audio), visual (images, charts, graphs), video (films, videogames), movement (games, manipulatables, trading cards), and/or groups (discussion, immersion learning experiences, simulation exercises). So, it is more comprehensive and hopefully, between the material itself and the links it provides, it is more accessible than a traditional print-only book.

It draws from multiple disciplines and practitioner experiences to create an interdisciplinary perspective. My academic training is in linguistics and teaching English as a second language, with extra coursework in public administration, economics, and sociology. Plus I’ve had trainings, internships, and/or work in culturology, ecology, strategic foresight (futurist studies), and organizational systems. I’ve worked in academia, business, non-profits, recovery-movement ministries, and churches – most often in research, writing, event planning, and creating organizational processes and procedures. I’ve helped pioneer several new youth ministries, served on the boards of two national non-profits, participated on the teams for five church plants, and worked in a five-year church transition process and a church merger situation. So, I have a wide range of theory, practice, and settings to draw upon when it comes to interdisciplinary planning.

It uses an intercultural approach to collaborate more effectively. I describe multiculturalism as co-existing peaceably, and respecting/appreciating individual and cultural differences. Interculturalism goes beyond mere multiculturalism and into active collaborating. An intercultural approach means seeing how the aspects of difference from other people as individuals or from their culture actually help fill in the gaps I have in my character and culture, or file off the excesses I have. Maturing toward individual Christlikeness and communal “Kingdom culture” (i.e., the social outworking of Christlike character) is essentially a dual intercultural process of expansion and polishing. I’ve long believed this would be the wave of the future in ministry, and we can see a similar perspective emerging already in the secular community.

Those are the major distinctives. For additional thoughts on what makes this curriculum unique, see Module 0 ~ Publications Overview.

Creating Opal Design Systems has been a long-term project. It’s been constantly fueled by a drive to understand how things work, a concern for people when things go wrong, and a passion for making things better. I had no idea that this is where my interests in volunteer organizations and social innovation would end up when I wrote my first (and very basic) non-profit organization and transition plan – at age 17 – for the local Youth Employment Service and carried it out a year later! I began intentional research for this material almost 20 years after that in 1991, and started in on the writing in 1995. I completely revised the outline and format in 2009, and finished the first draft in 2010. After a year of more editing in 2011, it looks like 2012 will begin the actual release of the first module of the curriculum, probably near the end of the year.

Thanks for visiting my site, and I hope you’ll find help in these training resources for customizing culture-sensitive holistic ministry in our global-paradigm world!

P.S. Thanks to Wordle for the opportunity to create the “word cloud” graphics that you’ll see at the top of my pages for various Modules. Each wordle comes right out of the text on its particular page, and so represents a cool way to capture the topics and themes of that part of the curriculum!

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