General CBF

‘Pivoting’ toward a theology of mission

By Matt Norman

When my wife, Michelle, and I developed Pivot: Turning Teams Toward God’s Mission Near and Far as an alternative to a traditional short-term mission trip, we had hopes that the experience would offer life-changing moments. It is hard to measure such a goal, but after five years of working with Pivot teams I can definitely say that my life has been changed.

Pivot is a leadership development resource that challenges our traditional thoughts and beliefs about God’s mission in the world and our role in that mission. More than a traditional mission trip, the Pivot process helps a mission team reflect upon and develop a theology of mission. That theology then intentionally shapes and informs the way that team practices mission.

Intentionally is key in the process. So often, we do things in life without really stopping to ask ‘Why?’. Designing Pivot to have three stages allows a team to ask the ‘Why?’ question during the first phase, while thinking theologically about mission.

The second stage gives the team opportunity to practice mission alongside CBF field personnel and partners while making sure that their mission practice fits their theology. This is a practical phase, but at the same time, this phase often occurs in a context outside of teams’ cultures, allowing for deep reflection.

The third phase might just be the most crucial. It is in this final phase that the team actually gets to live into their new learning and practice mission in their community.

As teams get ready to leave Barcelona, Michelle and I always tell them that now their ‘real’ trip begins. The last phase challenges the team to go back to their community and practice what they have learned.

This is the part that is missing often from traditional mission trips or even conferences that we attend where we hope to learn something new. We fail to intentionally close the learning circle by applying what we have learned and experienced to our real life. When we can do this, then our learning moves from passive learning to active learning. Active learning changes us.

Perhaps the greatest example of this change in me comes from the ‘Voices’ sessions in Pivot. These sessions are practiced during the second phase when the team learns to listen to people they would normally not hear. This can take place in the form of having coffee with a person of another faith, listening to the story of a believer in the local context, meeting with college students or refugees, etc. The goal is to have the opportunity to listen, ask and learn.

Michelle and I arrange for each Pivot team to have three to four ‘Voices’ sessions. These are usually different for each team, and over the years, it has been amazing how these moments of intentional listening seem to fit the individuality of each team. However, I also have grown from the conversations. Many times, the ideas and perspectives that are spoken in these sessions lead to new ministry ideas and partnership.

Pivot is not a process that every church will want to engage with. That is okay. But, if you are reading this and it sounds like something that you or those you know may be interested in, then go to the website and learn more. And very soon, we will have Pivot materials in Spanish.

Matt and Michelle Norman are CBF field personnel serving in Barcelona, Spain. Learn more about and support their work at You can also learn about “Pivot: Turning Teams Toward God’s Mission Near and Far” at

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