Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Church on the Other Side

Organizational structure is like a pair of shoes. You fit the shoes to the feet, you don't make the feet fit the shoes. K. Caldwell

Highlighted below are several principles of this new ecclesiology as outlined by Brian McLaren in his book The Church on the Other Side

1. When good people start fighting and acting badly (especially folks who genuinely like and love one another) it may be a sign that the structure is no longer adequate...and the interpersonal struggles are symptoms of a systemic and structural problem in the organization. It is unwise to spiritualize conflict or demonize the opposition.

2. A functional structure tends to promote growth, which eventually makes the current structure obsolete, with yesterday's successes and progress leading to today's organizational failures and problems.

3. Every trade-up in new structures requires some to give up power and freedom, which in turn creates pain and requires grace and humility. As new life flourishes, someone is or has been dying and in some way experiencing "labor pains."

4. The Holy Spirit is our resource guide in the process of re-engineering structures. The Holy Spirit does not mandate new wine in old skins - which no longer stretch to fulfill their purpose - or new wine in no skins, but rather new wine in new skins.

5. Bible calls us to seek wisdom, which can be defined as "the ability to decide when structures should be preserved and protected, and when they should be adapted or replaced."

6. Plan on restructuring every time your church doubles in size and write it into the bylaws, then the church can anticipate the need for change while facilitating rather than obstructing structural changes.

7. A healthy church can balance the need to conserve expertise (by valuing seniority, tenure, and past contribution) with the need for fresh blood and new ideas. Both expertise and energetic innovations are needed in times of rapid and radical change.

8. Structural roles in a healthy church will be designed with the concept of spiritual gifts and personality theory in mind. Structures won't work when the roles they create don't match how people are actually wired; neither do they work when the roles change, whether quickly or gradually. Do we want to save the person in a certain role and change the structure, or keep the structure even though it will cost us the person (through a firing, a resignation, a nervous breakdown, or burnout?)

9. Control is less important than catalyzing positive action. William Easum distinguishes control structures from permission-giving structures. "The top-down oppressive approach of bureaucracy is on its way out. In its place are emerging permission-giving networks. These networks are freeing and empowering people to explore their spiritual gifts individually and in teams on behalf of the Body olf Christ." The question is not - How can our structures control, but How can they be catalytic?

10. We need an ecclesiology that acknowledges latent periods without guilt. The fact is, down times are important for many reasons, not the least of which is that without them there are no up times. All life runs with times and seasons, ebbs and flows, work and rest, expansion and consolidation, death and birth. Our ecclesiology should embrace it.

11. We need an ecclesiology that is streamlined, simple, and less exhausting and time consuming. By adding program to program, never practicing strategic abandonment, we reun ourselves ragged and eventually despise the church for abuse and neglect. (burning us out)

We need to go back to the drawing board and conceive of new approaches to structuring church life. Ed Simon calls them "organizational architectures."

"We need a new generation of organizational architects. But to get there we must first correct basic misunderstandings...It is not just rearranging the organizational structure. We have to design for the long term - based on understanding interdependencies. Most changes in organizational structures are piecemeal reactions to problems. Real designers are constantly trying to understand wholes."

Perhaps the perfect structure is just about any that is flexible enough to become a better structure tomorrow. Conversely, the "perfect structure" that claims to be the right one, immune to improvement is actually one of the worst structures possible.

Like our closets that are full of outgrown clothes, so our church files should be full of outgrown structural diagrams. Those diagrams were not failure, they fulfilled their purpose for their time.

1 comment:

  1. cheers!! this is the steeple but where are all the people?