1 Opal Design Intro [2012]

  • About Opal Design Systems
  • What Makes These Resources Unique?
  • About the Developer

Opal Design Systems ~ Publications Introduction

About Opal Design Systems

Opal Design Systems produces training curriculum courses and resources for those working in the emerging paradigm of intercultural ministry. This includes leaders and participants in churches, non-profit agencies, social enterprises, and ministry projects.

Opal Design materials emphasize holistic missional ministry with a systems perspective for engaging with people in a post-Christian world. They focus on how to design and develop ministry in ways that make sense in your own community, that make sense for the types of people you have on your teams, and that make sense for the kinds of social transformation that are both possible and preferable.

Three courses are currently in the research and development phase, with the Course #1 due for release in 2013. Each course contains a set of book plus workbook.

  • Introduction: Collaboration, Culture, and Creativity
  • Course #1: Safe Houses for God’s People ~ Confronting Abusive Leaders, Malignant Ministries, and Christian Dystopias.
  • Course #2: Opal Design for Robust Ministries ~ Constructing Christian Ministries that are Missional, Contextual, Intercultural, Transformational, and Sustainable.
  • Course #3: Missional Metrics Resource Suite ~ Learning Styles, Teamwork Styles, Cultural GPS, Strategic Foresight Tools, and Qualitative/Quantitative Metrics for Ministry Sustainability.

Tentative publication plans after these three courses include advanced studies using concrete media as sources for studying cultures and their underlying paradigms.

What Makes These Resources Unique?

How does this curriculum differ from other training materials on related subjects? At least three things distinguish the Opal Design courses: They are integrative, interdisciplinary, and intercultural.

They integrate 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, the courses are more comprehensible and thus more accessible than a traditional print-only book.

They draw 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 extensive coursework in public administration, economics, and sociology. Plus I’ve had trainings, internships, and/or jobs 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 did my first non-profit volunteer work in 1972 while in high school. 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 for a broad range of organizations.

They use an intercultural approach to collaborate more effectively. I describe multiculturalism as co-existing peaceably, and respecting and appreciating personal and cultural differences. Interculturalism goes beyond this 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 own 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 interculturalism would be the wave of the future in ministry, and we can see a similar perspective emerging already in the global community with the increasing number of people who are at least bicultural in their backgrounds.

About the Developer

In July 2001, I had a most intriguing conversation with my church planting strategist friend Linda Bergquist. She identified me and two other people we know in the San Francisco Bay Area as “Christian philosophers.” Linda felt the Church doesn’t particularly like philosophers, but she believed it still needs them. Specifically, she sensed these three people were being raised up to help the Church transition into what we then were calling the “post-postmodern” era. Ahh, how terms change over time!

Linda told me a story about what this kind of philosopher is. She’d recently read a biography of Thomas Jefferson. She found it intriguing that Jefferson was offered all kinds of military commissions and other strategic jobs during the Revolutionary War. Instead of taking any of those opportunities, he went back home and worked diligently on the background for creating the American Constitution. He had confidence the Revolution would succeed, and that those with other kinds of leadership gifts would step up to their challenge. And so, he was free to do the philosophizing that he knew was necessary for the establishment of long-term goals and sustainability of this new union. As a “renaissance man” and philosopher, Jefferson trusted that his abilities matched this historic opportunity, and he knew where he should invest his time in order for a larger payoff in the long run for everyone.

Similarly, Linda was convinced that these three church planting philosophers in the Bay Area needed to NOT feel pressured to be “The Theologian” or “The Practitioner,” but to invest in the most important roles they could play right now for the future of the Kingdom – research and development, and philosophy. This encouraged me then, and it remains comforting now, over 10 years later, while I am still working on the same massive set of trainings in paradigm and cultural systems for growing Kingdom Culture organizations whose participants manifest in society the character of Christ.

Around that same time is when I found out that I am a polymath – someone who naturally absorbs multiple different domains of learning and practice, and synthesizes them into something new. I see myself as stewarding something important for the long run of the Kingdom. It requires complex thinking and dense communicating. The concepts in the Opal Design Curriculum have been steeping for over 20 years, and the writing/editing phases have already taken four years. Still, I know at a deep level that pouring myself out in these tasks will have paid off in the long run for what God is doing in His world. It is a privilege, within God’s providence, to be called into being this kind of philosopher.

~ July 2012