What Are You Delivering?

An interesting observation of the church by noted business thinker and strategist Gary Hamel:

It is worth noting that many churches adhere to the same “delivery model” for “spiritual services” and that the standard template is less the product of Biblical injunction than of habit. Unchallenged assumptions include:

  • Church happens in church
  • Preaching is the most effective way of imparting religious wisdom
  • Clergy lead while lay people follow
  • More programs equal more impact
  • The church service follows a typical order: greet, sing, read, pray, preach, bless, dismiss (repeat weekly)
  • Believers, rather than curious skeptics, are the church’s primary constituency
  • Going to church is the primary manifestation of a spiritual life
  • Church is a lecture, not a discussion
  • The primary mission of a church is to serve its members, rather than those outside the church who are searching for a spiritual connection
  • The best way to grow the Christian community is to plant little churches that are replicas of big churches
  • To bring people to faith, churchgoers need to market their beliefs more professionally rather than live them out more convincingly

What could you add to this list of things that mindlessly perpetuate the past in your organization?

If organized religion has become less relevant, it’s not because churches have held fast to their creedal beliefs; it’s because they’ve held fast to their conventional rituals, roles, and routines.

The problem with organized religion isn’t the “religion” bit, but the “organized” bit. Today’s mainline churches are institutionally powerful but spiritually weak

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as a part of ongoing research in preparation for a presentation on change at WFX Atlanta 09/19/12

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Do You Feel Like You’ve Been Run Over by Change?

In the hyperactive world we live in today, you’re either going forward or going backwards – but you’re never standing still.

Based on that premise, a lot of organizations, churches included, are going backwards. 

Historically, organizational leaders didn’t have to worry about fundamental paradigm shifts. They could safely assume that their basic business model, their way of doing things, would last forever. Over the last few decades, that thought has not only gone by the wayside, it’s been blown to the side of the road by in increased speed of, well, life.

In the case of the church, the paradigm was loyal pew-warmers who showed up each week, sat passively through the same unvarying service, dropped five dollars into the offering plate as it passed, and politely shook the pastor’s hand as they headed off for Sunday lunch.

Repeat next week.

But as we have found out over the last few decades, organizational models aren’t eternal. Increasingly, we have witnessed profound paradigm shifts in the world of business, where rigid adherence to one particular model causes the organization to atrophy when its model no longer works – or at least, works well.

What’s true for the world of physics works in the world of organizations as well – over time, entropy increases. As Gary Hamel writes in What Matters Now:

Visionary leaders pass the baton to steadfast administrators who milk the legacy business but fail to reinvent it. The bureaucrats extrapolate but they don’t rejuvenate. As the years pass, the mainspring of foresight and passion slowly unwinds. The organization gets better but it doesn’t get different, and little by little it surrenders its relevance.

Recognize the Church anywhere in that statement? Better yet, do you recognize your church in that statement?

As Christianity has become institutionalized it has become encrusted with elaborate hierarchies, top-heavy bureaucracies, highly specialized roles, and reflexive routines.

Your church won’t regain its relevance until leaders chip off those calcified layers and rediscover its sense of mission.

 

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research in preparation for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 09/19/12

Defying Gravity

The “rocket ride” comment in yesterday’s post reminded me of some remarks by Andy Stanley when he came to Elevation Church in Charlotte NC for one of our leader training sessions. They are an appropriate reminder as we consider changing change.

Recalling the dispute in Antioch and the resulting Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Stanley developed the following thoughts about what the church should be vs. gravitational pull of culture.

1. There’s always a gravitational pull toward insiders and away from outsiders

  • You must continue to create empty seats at optimal worship times for the unchurched

People who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus

2. There’s always a gravitational pull toward law and away from grace

  • Have as few policies as possible and as many conversations as possible

With conversations you can always extend grace

3. There’s always a gravitational pull toward complexity and away from simplicity

  • Do what you do well and do it better than anyone else

Complexity always slows things down, is expensive, and makes you lose distinctiveness in the community

4. There’s always a gravitational pull toward preserving and away from advancing

  • When you start preserving, you are building walls instead of bridges

Back when we had nothing, what would we have done?

If you want to defy gravity:

  • You must be a raving fan publicly
  • You must be an honest critic privately with the right people in the right environment for the right reason
  • You have to be extraordinarily generous

That’s how you keep the church in orbit.

Change Without Trauma

As noted in yesterday’s post, change often comes in only two varieties: the trivial and the traumatic. Frantic, crisis-driven change is a poor substitute for timely transformation. There must be a better way.

We need look no further that our body’s automatic systems for some useful metaphors.

When you jump on a treadmill or pick up some weights, your heart starts to pump more blood, automatically. When you stand in front of a large audience to speak, your adrenal glands ramp us the production of adrenaline, spontaneously. When you walk from shade to bright sunlight, your pupils contract reflexively. Automatically, spontaneously, reflexively – these aren’t the words we use to describe how our organizations change, but they should be. That should be our goal: change without trauma.

In the mind flipping, VUCA world we live in, what matters is not merely an organization’s success at a point in time, but its evolutionary success over time. I recently remarked that being a part of my church’s rapid growth was like a “rocket ride” – and then a friend reminded me that rockets follow a parabolic path, and that the satellites they launch into space ultimately come back to earth in a flaming shower of debris. Ouch!

How do you keep an organization – like your church – in “orbit?” Building a truly adaptable organization is a lot of work. It requires a shift in aspirations, behaviors, and operating systems.

  • An adaptable organization rethinks its strategy without having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death; it reinvents itself before getting mugged by the future.
  • An adaptable organization is one that captures more than its fair share of new opportunities. It’s always redefining itself, always pioneering the new.
  • An adaptable organization is more successful in attracting and retaining talent; it will have team members who are more engaged, more excited to show up every day, and are enthusiastic about their work.
  • An adaptable organization will be more productive in responding to emerging “customer” needs. It will take the lead in redefining customer expectations in positive ways.

Building a church that is as resilient as it is efficient may be the most fundamental organizational challenge facing today’s ChurchWorld leaders.

Adaptability really matters now.

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 9/19/12

Introducing the Scrum to ChurchWorld

During the course of the past week’s posts I have journeyed from Generation Flux to Adaptability to Nostalgia to Agile Development to a new destination: the Scrum.

It’s actually all part of the same journey: 1) realizing tomorrow is not going to be like yesterday, and 2) What am I as a leader going to do about it?

Back to the Scrum. As a parent of four children, I have been involved in many sports, some for fun, more that were in a league setting. About three years ago, my youngest son-at that time a junior in high school-came home and said he had signed up for the rugby team at school.

 

Okay. New experience, new opportunity for learning.

 

 

In rugby, a scrum is a formalized contest for possession of the ball during a rugby game between the two sets of forwards who each assemble in a tight-knit formation with bodies bent and arms clasped around each other and push forward together against their opponents.

Hold that thought.

Yesterday I suggested that an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld needs to be developed. In my research to do just that, what do I encounter but a Scrum – but with a new definition:

In the agile world a scrum is a process framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Learning from the World of Business Bankruptcy and Software Development

Kodak, the iconic company that was synonymous with pictures, has declared bankruptcy.

When that news came out last week, I knew I would be getting around to connecting it to ChurchWorld. James Emery White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, already has: What Business Are You In? is a great post that every ChurchWorld leader needs to read.

As soon as I had finished reading it, my thoughts went back to the Generation Flux cover story from Fast Company that I posted here, here, and here last week. There were several topics that I had marked in it for future research, and one of them ties in nicely to the bankruptcy announcement by Kodak and White’s post.

It’s about being agile.

I’m not talking exclusively about physical agility, the ability to move quickly and with suppleness, skill, and control; I’m not talking only about mental agility, the ability to be able to think quickly and intelligently. It’s really a combination of the two, and more.

Software development used to be developed by what chaos expert DJ Patil called the “waterfall” process:

One group develops the product, another builds visual mockups…and finally a set of engineers builds it to some specification document.

Think Microsoft and their practice of having a designated schedule of issuing large, finished releases of their products (Windows 95, Windows 2000, etc.). Today that process has given way to “agile” development, what Patil calls “the ability to adapt and iterate quickly throughout the product life cycle.” In today’s software world, that concept follows the precepts of “The Agile Manifesto,” a 2001 document written by a group of developers who stated a preference for:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • responding to change over following a plan

Maybe it’s time for an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld.

If Only Things Were Like They Used To Be

Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we’ve learned and relying on what’s worked before.

It’s also about as useful as an appendix right now.

That quote is from Fast Company Editor Robert Safian, writing the cover story “Generation Flux” for the February 2012 issue. He goes on to add:

When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seemed simpler, and we have the urge to recreate them. This impulse is as true for organizations  as for people. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved best practices may well be useless.

ChurchWorld, to a great extent, finds itself in that situation right now.

There are huge shifts occurring in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of our lives right now. That’s not new – change has always been a part of who we as humans are. But what’s different is the pace of change. It’s not just getting faster – it’s accelerating along an exponential curve.

And the response of ChurchWorld?

Put a fence around your facility and charge admission to a museum dedicated to the 1990s – or 1980s – or 1970s – or 1960s – or 1950s – or…

Oh, it’s not that blatant – but it is obvious.

It’s time to change.

My absolute favorite quote about change is from Will Rogers:

Will Rogers quote

To survive THRIVE in this age of flux, you have to claim what makes your church unique, what sets you apart from 10,000 other churches, what God has uniquely gifted your people to be and doHold onto that – and change any and every thing else that needs to be changed in order to live out God’s calling.