Moore Matters spoke to Paul Grimmond, the Dean of Students, about the relatively new subject known as IMR.
Many students at Moore College are now doing a subject called ‘IMR’. What exactly is it?
The letters IMR stand for Intentional Ministry Reflection.
It involves a group of about five students who sit in a room week by week with two facilitators who are experienced ministry practitioners.
Each week, a student brings to the group a complex ministry situation they have been involved in. They fill out a template asking some questions about what happened, what they felt, and what sense they made of it beforehand. And then, they take part in a conversation in front of the group as they think about what happened, what they should learn about themselves and others, and what might be some helpful things for them to grow in or to develop as they move forward in ministry.
What does it seek to achieve?
The primary thing we’re trying to achieve is an awareness of complexity.
We want our students to have a sense of ‘being a self in a system’, which might sound technical. It means we want people to realize that they are one player in any ministry situation, in a broader system of relationships, people, desires, hopes, fears, and a whole bunch of other things. So that when they come to interact in complex spaces in ministry, they realize that their perspective is one perspective, and there are other perspectives out there. If they can work out how to entertain other people’s views and perspectives with some thoughtfulness and empathy, they’re likely to ask better questions, listen better, and come to better solutions to ministry issues. So that’s one part of it.
The other part is research into resilience that suggests that things like emotional awareness, cultural intelligence, and self-awareness are significant for preventing burnout and other unhealthy behaviours in ministry.
How does IMR intersect with the Bible?
The reflection process steps students through four stages.
We ask them first to tell us what happened. Second, the student talks about what they felt and what sense they made of it. In the third section, they talk about their biblical values and what they thought was important for them Christianly. We explore gaps between what they said or did and what the Bible says would be a healthy or Jesus-honouring way of acting or speaking in this situation.
So it’s not detached from a student’s awareness of biblical truth or the shape of Christian godliness.
But it’s designed to help them to interact with that in a way that gets a bit more real for themselves, and also stops that thing that’s very easy to do, which is to justify yourself, and always think that the other person has the problem.
The final part of the process involves them thinking through those gaps between belief and practice and what aspects of themselves they’d like to work on moving forwards.
Why was IMR brought into the curriculum?
There are a few reasons.
The research and work that Archie Poulos was doing in his PhD on ministry practice led him to ask some questions about what we did well at College and the gaps in the college space.
Around the same time, various other members of the ministry department came from different backgrounds and were thinking through related issues. All of those different pieces converged in this space where we felt it was important to help students not just gain exegetical skills or an understanding of theological truth but to think about how they and others engage in working those things out in relationship with each other.
This involves a different set of skills apart from just knowing the truth.
Have you got any encouraging stories of growth that resulted from a student doing IMR?
I’ve seen students tackle some complex things in their life and background and realize that some of the ways they behave in stressful situations have been programmed or governed by previous experiences.
And I’ve seen them become more aware of when they’re feeling anxious and stressed in ministry and then working hard at being more thoughtful and listening. So one student said at the end of their first semester of doing this, ‘Grimmo, I’ve tried some of these things that we’ve been learning in IMR with my wife, and it’s really helped. I’m learning skills here that affect all of my relationships. And I need to work out how to put them into practice, even in the relationships closest to me.’
What a blessing potentially for ministry marriages and the Kingdom!
And I’ve seen other students too, who’ve arrived at college, and by the end of college have been able to say things to me, like, Gee, I’ve realized I’m really ideologically driven. And I’m quite a strong personality. And so I realized who I work for as a boss will be important. And I need to work out how to have a bit of that conversation with them as I start work to explain who I am and help them to know who I am. There’s a growing level of awareness, and even a willingness to share that in relationships with significant people, that will hopefully help relationships in ministry.
Below is the full IMR conversation with Paul Grimmond: