This is the second part in my series of posts on the Business of Church. In this post, I continue to till the soil of our understanding—to dig up the roots underneath our thinking and our philosophies of ministry. We will plant some seeds, but for now we are still plowing.
In part one, I question our thinking process itself. Why do we think the way we do? The scientific method lurking behind our western processing of facts pushes us to drive towards efficiency with the unintended consequence of dehumanization. That represents one row in this field.
Part two continues this questioning, but in a different row of the field.
Call it a personality deficiency if you must, but I have always distrusted hierarchies.
It is not in my nature to accept authority. (Isn’t that true for all of us?) Particularly, titled authority that lacks the requisite gifting and intelligence (but more importantly, or less harshly perhaps, the needed capacity to love).
I freely admit this distrust is part of the filter I bring to the topic of church and the way we do our work as the church (and, incidentally, the hermeneutic I weave into the book of Acts and the Epistles).
It is this innate skepticism towards those in charge that is part of the reason I find myself rejecting the leadership movement of the last decade.
(Did it start with John Maxwell* in the 90s? I don’t know for sure. I just know I don’t like it, and it does not appeal to the deeper longings of my soul.)
Additionally, my distrust comes from my personal experience. I have experienced the relentless crush of the ministry machine masquerading as the church. And yes, usually there is a “leader” at the helm cracking the whip for more, bigger, better.
(The fact that the more, bigger, better is tightly connected to their personal goals and finances should not be ignored.)
There has to be a better way to carry out our mission.
I have come to realize, almost every task I do as a Church Technical Leader is a project – from a video shoot to a room remodel to implementing a new initiative. Good project management is like a recipe. If you start with great ingredients and combine them in the proper way, you will get good results.
The basic ingredients of successful projects are three-fold:
effective project management
well executed individual contributions
This post is going to be more about tasks – the doing part of the job. Just knowing you are responsible for the outcome is not where the secret lies. The secret, if there is one, is in the ingredients. And, for all my church techies out there, these principles mirror the way God leads, and that’s how you know you are getting it right.
Most of us techies are task oriented people. We probably are, or have the potential to be, productive managers. This is something that is a great benefit to the churches where we serve. We are known as people who get stuff done. If we took a strength finder test, achievement would be in our top five. This is how many of us are wired (If you’re not wired that way, that’s OK. Maximizing your gifts, and helping others flourish in their’s, is the path to success, after all).
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Most tech people I know are detailed planners. We want all the details (all!) ASAP. Perhaps even before that. Our goal is to help the ministry be successful and to see people’s lives changed by the power of the Gospel. Our part is to make sure all of the technical ducks are in a row so nothing blocks what God is doing. There are always curve balls. We know and accept that.
By planning all of the details that we can control ahead of time, we give adequate time and space for the curveballs that come up right before or during the service/event/project.
That seems so obvious it shouldn’t be stated. Therein lies the problem. It is not obvious to some of our teammates.
I have often been part of a project that started to go off the rails because of lack of planning and communication (I like to say, “the wheels fell off the bus” as an analogy for failure that leads to more failure).
I see two extremes for handling this potential minefield: we can take charge or lay low.
The answer probably lies somewhere between the two extremes, and depending on the situation, leans one way or the other.
My mind has been spinning for the last week on a recent Seth Godin post, “The Lab or the Factory”. I have been contemplating what this distinction could reveal about the way we do church. It has also given me a new paradigm to freshly examine my own experiences.
The lab or the factory.
You work at one, or the other.
At the lab, the pressure is to keep searching for a breakthrough, a new way to do things. And it’s accepted that the cost of this insight is failure, finding out what doesn’t work on your way to figuring out what does. The lab doesn’t worry so much about exploiting all the value of what it produces–they’re too busy working on the next thing.
The factory, on the other hand, prizes reliability and productivity. The factory wants no surprises, it wants what it did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.
Some personalities are more lab technician, others are more factory worker.
Churches are also either labs or factories: partly because of the personality of our leaders and partly because of the philosophy of ministry.
Some leaders prefer an assembly line approach where they are in control of the methods and results. They prize efficiency in the execution of their ideas. For some people, this approach works really well. My wife is one of them. She would say: tell me what to do, show me how you want me to do it, and I will work really hard to improve efficiency and maximize the return.
Other leaders prefer a lab approach where the organized chaos leads to innovation. They prize learning with each individual creating additional value. They are trendsetters in new ministry methods and experiences. Others often come later and improve on the things they’ve pioneered. This is where I come in. I like to question things. If it’s not broken, let’s break it and see if we can make it better. I would say: tell me what you want to accomplish, the problem you want to solve, and I’ll help you figure out how to do it. Then I’ll move to the next problem.
With these very different styles, it would be valuable to understand both the kind of ministry we serve in and our natural bias.