CHANGE & Harnessing the Differences Between Generations & Their Approaches to Change

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

This study must begin with a few delimitations and explanations regarding terminology that will be employed. I present these as juxtaposition propositions.

Boomers vs. Everyone Else (Gen. X, Y & Z)

There are varying ways to designate generational cultures. The most widely accepted labels have been put forth by Philip Bump in his article “Here is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.”[1] Synthesizing work conducted by the US Census Bureau, the Harvard Center and Strauss and Howe, Bump suggests these designations:

  • Greatest Generation, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Generation X, born 1965-1984
  • (overlapping: Generation Y, born 1975-2004)
  • Millennials, born 1982-2004
  • TBD, 2003-today[2]

Philip Bump, The Atlantic, titled “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts” (3/25/14)

To complicate matters, I have suggested the older generations are more influenced by modernity while the younger generations by postmodernity.[3] Though it is hard to designate an arbitrary point at which the majority of a generation crosses the modernal divide, this article will assume these influences. I have made at length a case for this elsewhere.[4]

Modernity vs. Postmodernity

To contrast modernity and postmodernity is beyond the scope and scale of this article. However, the genesis of these two views coupled with a meta-perspective on culture can frame our discussion.

Modernity roughly coincides with the emergence of education as the interpreter of knowledge. Emerging with the Reformation and gaining momentum in the Enlightenment, modernity viewed the mentor-mentee form of education as the arbitrator of civilization. Modernity hoped that through education the world would become a better place. Therefore, while sitting at the feet of experts, neophytes could build a better life for themselves and others.

Somewhere around the beginning of the 20th Century, disenchantment with the modern experiment arose. Modernity hoped that its emphasis upon education and knowledge would usher in a new world of peace. Instead, it had created new powers who tapped their educational resources to create weapons of mass destruction. The carnage of World War I was a verification that modernity had failed, as witnessed through the most educated countries on the earth becoming the most likely to devise new ways to kill people en masse.

The reaction first took hold in the art world, which employed an oxymoron (postmodernity) to describe a world in which humans move beyond the modern experiment (i.e. into post-modernity).[5] While modernity saw education from experts as the redeemer of culture, postmodernity began to prefer experience as its arbitrator of civilization. Modernity dictums such as “Get an education to get ahead” were replaced with postmodern maxims of “Try it, you may like it.” Thus arose in postmodernity an emphasis upon experience as a better teacher than experts.

To highlight this, the terms modern and postmodern will be used to highlight the difference in leadership approaches between younger and older leaders. The reader is cautioned to not apply these descriptors too narrowly or too generally. Rather, the judicious academic should allow these categories to inform his or her analysis of leadership while also taking into account the context and the players.

Organic vs. Organization

Over time, the term organic church has been more palatable in Christian circles than the term postmodern church. For instance, my publisher rejected my use of the term postmodern in the chapter titles of a 2011 book, because of the perceived anti-religious bent of postmodernity. Thus, I chose the term organic because it is helpful when describing the New Testament concept of a church as an organism with its interconnected, inter-reliant parts as seen in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, and Colossians 1.

Theologian Emil Bruner also emphasized that though the church is a spiritual organism (requiring pastoring and spiritual growth) it is also an organization (necessitating management and administration ).[6] Therefore, the term organic organization will be employed in this article to emphasize both elements.

I find it interesting that secular postmodern organizational theorists, such as the influential Mary Jo Hatch, have picked up upon the organic metaphor as a designation for healthy organizations.[7] Hatch suggests organic organizations embrace four conditions, which I will utilize in this discussion to frame how change mechanisms respond to them.

Condition 1: Organic, postmodern leadership understands it is dependent on its environment. While a modern leadership approach might try to colonize or impose upon another culture a leader’s preferential culture; according to Hatch an organic approach adapts its leadership practices to the indigenous cultures in which it hopes to bring about change.

Condition 2: Organic, postmodern leadership envisions a dissonant harmony that must be cultivated between the varied parts in the organization.[8] While a modernist strategy might overlook parts of the organization in order to emphasize those organizational aspects with growth potential, the postmodern sees an interconnectedness that requires addressing weaknesses in addition to building upon strengths. (Biblical examples for this view may be inferred from I Corinthians 12:12, 14, 20, 27; Romans 12: 4-5 and Ephesians 4:12 – 13).

Condition 3: Organic organizations adapt continually to their changing environments. The organization learns from its environment, weeds out aspects that can be unhealthy and learns which aspects can be embraced without compromising the mission or vision. To do so without compromising an underling mission, Kraft suggests this requires us to see Christ as “above but working through culture.”[9] Eddie Gibbs elaborates by suggesting that behaviors, ideas and products of a culture must be “sifted.”[10] Using a colander metaphor, Gibbs suggest this is an incarnational approach, “He (Christ) acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”[11]

Condition 4: Organic uniqueness recognizes that certain species flourish in some environments and die in others. Hence, to Hatch what works in one organization cannot necessarily be franchised into another context. Therefore, Hatch and other postmodern theorists like Zalesnick reject the notions of “irrefutable” and “unassailable” leadership laws or rules that can be applied in a general manner.[12]

With the above understanding of generational depictions, the philosophical forces that inform them, the organization as organism, and the conditions of an organic organization, we can move on to compare two areas where modern and postmodern leadership may differ. This is not to say these are the only or even most powerful areas in which they differ. I have compared and contrasted eight areas in my Abingdon Press release: ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. More depth on this discussion can be found there. However, for the present article, I will delve into two aspects that were not discussed to this depth in the aforementioned book.

Command-and-control leadership vs. collaborative leadership.

Modern leadership has customarily been associated with command-and-control leadership as depicted in Adam Smith’s seminal book The Wealth of Nations.[13] In this model the role of the leader or manager is to command often unwilling workers to pursue a goal while controlling their actions to attain it. Upon Smith’s ideas Frederick Taylor built Theory X, famously asserting; “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job.”[14]

Postmodern leadership, not surprisingly, reacted against this emphasis on a leadership expert and instead embraced a consensus building and collaborative approach. Harrison Monarch describes the contrast this way:

The archaic command-and-control approach is shelved in favor of a culture in which managers admit they don’t have all the answers and will implement and support team decisions. This means mangers become the architects of that team dynamic rather than the all-seeing purveyors of answers. The result is a culture of trust and employee empowerment that is safe.”[15]

Support for this approach can be found in the research of Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke. Not only organizational theorists who study of the formation of breakaway organizations (e.g. how organizations lose their change proponents), they also participate on the boards of their churches. They have applied their understanding of breakaway organizations to what they’ve witnessed in churches.[16] Dyke and Starke found that pastors who dictate change (or even who align themselves with a subgroup of change components who do so) will usually be pushed out by the status quo unless the leader demonstrates collaborative leadership. They discovered that the successful leader will build consensus for a change, even among the naysayers, before the change is implemented. They also discovered that implementing change too fast and without vetting it with the status quo results in failed change. Thus, change often fails in churches because it was not implemented in a collaborative fashion. Disturbingly, they also discovered an end result is that pastors and those proposing change are forced out of the church because they didn’t attain a unifying outcome.[17]

John Kotter is a Harvard management professor who wrote the seminal article (and the resultant book) on change, titled Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.[18] He states that the “second step” for bringing about change is to create a “guiding coalition” to generate that change. He found that when one person or one side pushes for change, the other sides will push back with the resultant change creating division rather than progress. Kotter’s solution is to create (as the second step of the eight-step process) a “guiding coalition” of both change proponents and the status quo who will bring change in a collaborative manner.

Best practices for the church: A leader must resist command-and-control tendencies and instead embrace approaches oriented toward collaboration. Best practices include Dyke and Starke’s suggestions that church leaders go to the status quo and listen to their concerns before launching into a change.[19] While field-testing this, I have found that simply giving status quo members a hearing goes a long way to helping them feel their voice and concerns are heard. Dyck and Starke also found that when an inevitable alarm event occurs through which some change begins to polarize the congregation, the collaborative pastor will bring the people together to grasp the common vision and cooperate on a solution.[20] Kotter even pushes the establishment of a guiding coalition to the top (second) of his eight tactical steps.

Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22]  

Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission:  

A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry.

Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

 

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring Bill Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

Though they may not realize it, Hatch’s four conditions of organic organizations are reflected in the postmodern emphasis upon an unchanging mission in lieu of the temporal- and quantitative-bound nature of vision. For example, “Condition 1: An organic dependency on its environment” is reflected in the postmodern emphasis that church should not be a closed, self-contained system; but rather an organic congregation tied to those it serves inside and outside the organization. Hatch’s “Condition 2: An organic harmony among the parts” is reflected in the postmodern propensity toward dissonant harmony among multiple constituencies. “Condition 3: Organic adaption to the surroundings,” is exhibited as these organic experiments adapt to the culture of their surroundings by changing visions as the environment changes. And finally, “Condition 4: Organic uniqueness from other organizations” is mirrored in their intentions to not franchise what works in other churches but to create indigenous and elastic visions that serve an immutable mission.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future (New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,” MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN

LEADERSHIP & 3 Perils of Modern Leadership by @BobWhitesel #ChurchCentral

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, May 11, 2017

Leadership is an interdependent mixture of intuition, experience, and inspiration. And precisely because of this extraordinary fusion a starting place becomes difficult, if not impossible, to assign.

Staying power

As the weekend retreat ended, two influential elders of Clarkston Church3 drew me aside. “We’ve decided to call for Pastor Gordon’s removal,” began Julian. “It’s not that we haven’t tried,” continued Rosa, “but Gordon is single-minded and stubborn. This weekend has been one long sales job. He’s just trying to get us to buy his vision for a new building.” Within a week I received an e-mail announcing that the elders were bringing Gordon before the council for removal. As I thought back to my two years working as a consultant with this church, I marveled how quickly things had changed.

Two years ago, Gordon was fresh out of seminary and following a popular pastor at Clarkston Church named Joan. Joan had turned a dying church of forty attendees into a growing congregation of more than 120 worshipers. Tapped as her successor, Gordon had graduated from seminary after forty years of running an investment program for his denomination. This was his first pastorate, and I remember the passion he brought to his new vocation.

Two years later, the enthusiasm was gone, replaced by a spirit of pessimism and duress. “They wanted me to change things,” recalled Gordon in a phone conversation later that day. “And they gave me free rein. So I took it. They are forgetting that we grew a lot my first year.”

“But last year was different,” I interjected.

“Sure, they’ve got their own unrealistic ideas about how things should be done,” continued Gordon. “They don’t have the training. I do! They saw my way worked the first year. They should have listened to me last year too.”

Rosa, in her mid-seventies, and Julian, in his early thirties, formed an odd partnership aligned against Gordon. “We both feel that Gordon won’t support our ideas to help townspeople,” began Julian. “We’re the poorest area in the county, and Gordon just wants to focus on building a new sanctuary.”

“He’s afraid the new building won’t be built if we use our money to help the needy here in Clarkston,” added Rosa. “He’s forgotten our history as a denomination that looks after the poor.” Later Julian summarized: “Gordon is getting his ideas from what bigger churches are doing in bigger cities and the stuff he learned in seminary. He doesn’t listen to our input. But we’re more familiar with what people need around here because we live here. And he still doesn’t.”

Gordon recently confided, “Look, Bob, I’ve got three years until I can retire with some denominational benefits. No one wants to hire a pastor my age. So help me convince my board to do things my way for just three more years. Then I can retire. The church can hire someone else to beat up, and everyone will be happy.”4 Gordon didn’t have three years. He barely had three months.

Stands for “others”

Among tomorrow’s leaders there is a passion not for themselves or their own accomplishments but for helping those most in need: the underprivileged, disadvantaged, and deprived. To understand this empathy, let us first look at what modern leadership has evolved into, for this will help us understand the millennial reaction. Here are three perils of modern leadership:

Modern peril 1: Others and their allegiance drive the leader. 

In the modern leadership world, numerous books extol leadership as the pinnacle of human ambition.5 And many of these books measure the leader’s success in terms of how many follow her or him.6 Harvard leadership professor Barbara Kellerman said, “The modern leadership industry, now a quarter-century old, is built on the proposition that leaders matter a great deal and followers hardly at all.”7 Another leadership
writer warned, “Many in leadership positions today believe that their leadership should be measured by how many people look to or depend on them.”8 A result has been that modern leaders often measure success by the number of followers who meet the needs of the organization (or meet the needs of the leader).

Subtle clues abound in the church world, such as when the leader’s name is proudly displayed on church signage and in advertisements. Doing this builds a church on a person rather than a community and inadvertently fosters a cult of personality. Another damaging result is that the non-church community can view the leader as the most important person in the congregation. Leaders exacerbate this problem when they use possessive terms: “Mychurch is located on Second Street,” “myboard does this,” or “myyouth pastor does that.” Ownership, self-importance, and dominance are the subtle insinuation, announcing that if you want to be part of this church, you should view yourself as a possession subject to an earthly person rather than to Christ.

Modern peril 2: Others are resources to be managed. 

A type of management arose during the Industrial Revolution that valued workers for their labor, not for their worth. In 1913 Frederick Taylor described this as “scientific management”9 and famously intoned, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job.”10 To legitimize his conclusions, he conducted time and motion studies to show how jobs could be better performed at the workers’ expense. Modern managers embraced this research to prove that by manipulating people, work can be done faster and more efficiently (oftentimes, however, at the expense of the workers’ input, self-worth, and dignity).

The human resource movement rose in reaction,11 where fulfilling a worker’s needs and aspirations was seen as equally important. But this approach came to view humans as little more than just another “resource” to be allocated, deployed, and/or deleted.12 After a century of these trends, modern leadership often became too focused on propping up the organization and/or the leader at the expense of the people it managed or served.13

An autocratic leadership model emerged in many churches that paralleled the business world where all major decisions passed through a central leader.14 Known in the business world as the sole-proprietorship model, this is a mom-and-pop business approach where all-important decisions pass through “pop,” the figurehead leader. In the church this figurehead is usually a professional clergy person. But this creates a bottleneck in the decision-making process, stalling growth for several reasons. First, growth stalls because of the time needed to get a decision approved by a senior leader. Second, volunteers may feel their input is not trusted because the volunteers must “convince” a figurehead, far removed from the work, of the merit of the volunteers’ ideas. Third, the figurehead will often respond by using past experience to criticize the new idea. Leaders become trapped in an experience trap and dismiss the innovations of others.15 Volunteers such as Rosa and Julian often feel they do not measure up to the leader’s expertise. They feel unappreciated, unacknowledged, and eventually a commodity.

Modern peril 3: Others are led by vision. 

“Everyone keeps talking about vision statements. They spend too much time on these things. Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, that’s our mission!” said Leonard Sweet.16

An abundance of books today deal with how to fine-tune a church’s vision.17 Yet very little church growth occurs because of a more accurate vision or mission statement. Rather, I have observed churches preoccupied with scrutinizing the language of their statements. Wrangling over words in our statements preoccupies congregations with the minutia of church language, disregarding the important language of good deeds to a non-church community.

Similarly, when conflict arises (as it will in the church), a leader may be tempted to retreat to her or his vision, using it as a weapon to demote the vision of others. Often, the leader may try to win over others by scheduling a vision retreat, which more aptly might be called a “vision-selling retreat.” Then, if others are not won over, leaders such as Pastor Gordon may focus on Jesus’ warning that “my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit” (John 15:1-2 NIV).18 Usually, this indicates the leader wants certain people (who don’t agree with the leader) to exit the congregation, which in a worst- case scenario can lead to congregants being forced out. This can be exacerbated if the leader has come to see one’s vision as superseding any corporate vision. This malady allows the leader to dismiss others’ foresight for ministry.19 Such a leader develops a type of people blindness.20

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press 2011). For further online notes: See Chapter 1 Complete Notes.

Photo source: istock

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/3-perils-of-modern-leadership/

RETREATS & 3 lessons that make a successful retreat #ChurchCentral

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, 7/25/17/.

 As a leadership consultant and seminar leader, I spend a lot of time at leadership retreats. I’ve seen over the years three ideas that make them more effective. 

1. A retreat should embody the idea of getting away, relaxing and enjoying the kind of fellowship that you don’t normally experience in business meetings. 

“Probably 90 percent of the retreats I attend are all day business meetings … just in a different location.”

Mistake 1: The first mistake is to make your retreat just a business meeting just in a different location. If the room doesn’t have windows you wouldn’t know that you weren’t in the typical church or university conference room. These really shouldn’t be called retreats, but relocations.

Corrective Step 1: Instead of a relocated business meeting, go to a location that allows the types of activities you normally don’t experience with your colleagues. These non-business activities can forget team building. One church went to a river rafting center. Another went to a lakeshore location where participants could rent a paddle boat or sailboat. Another school went to a amusement business where the students could compete in go cart races, arcade games and miniature golf. Granted, these are ideas especially attractive to energetic baby boomers, but the idea is to have some place you can go that offers activities that can create team building and a break from the typical business meeting simply relocated.

2. The agenda of the retreat should be revitalization and reinvigoration as indicated by the title “retreat.”

“…most retreat participants associate your vision with unrelenting promotion.”

Mistake 2: It seems most of the time retreats are scheduled by administrators to create an extended time to sell their vision. But this usually works against vision, because wearing down people does not help them buy-into the vision. As a result, most retreat participants associate your vision with unrelenting promotion.

Corrective Step 2:Use the retreat as a time for people to give feedback on their current understanding of the topic. If it is a vision retreat, ask the participants to share what they think is the vision. Then you can respond by describing to them the leadership’s perspective on the vision. This way you create dialogue which begins with questions from the retreat recipients.

3. Don’t forget to let the Lord be the revitalizer and reinvigorator of the retreat participants. 

“…people commune with God in different and personal ways.”

Mistake 3:  Sometimes leaders think that extended times of quietude and/or prayer is what the participants need. But people commune with God in different and personal ways. 

Corrective Step 3: Don’t tell participants how to communicate with God, rather give time and space to do so. Let them read, journal, reflect, sing, etc. but let it be done organically and individually. Don’t force a corporate expression of spirituality, but rather let each participant connect with God in the way that she or he feels benefits them.

By taking into account these three areas you can have a retreat that truly is a “retreat” for the attendees. Remember …

1. It is not just relocating to a different conference room and having sandwiches brought in for lunch. It is about revitalizing and restoring participants energies by letting them do something new and fun with their colleagues. 

2. And it is not about selling a vision, but rather about communication that should start with those you serve. 

3. And finally it’s about letting each person connect with God in the manner in which they connect most powerfully.

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/3-lessons-that-make-a-successful-retreat/

STRATEGY & Why churches need blue-ocean strategies

by Bob Whitesel D,Min., Ph.D, , Biblical Leadership Magazine, 9/18/17.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne analyzed 150 years of strategic decision-making and concluded that every strategy could be described as either a “red ocean strategy” or a “blue ocean strategy.” A red ocean strategy is where you go after the same people as your competitors and try to meet the same needs that your competitors are meeting. Therefore you fight over the same fish and, as sharks feeding on the same fish, the water becomes red with blood.

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A blue ocean strategy, however, finds new segments of the market that are not having their needs met and begins to meet those needs. Therefore you are not competing with your competitors, but rather you are meeting needs in a segment of the market that the other competitors have overlooked.

This is very important for the church. Most churches typically try to have a better children’s ministry, a more professional worship team or a more visible/attractive facility in hopes of attracting people to the church. Typically this attracts other Christians looking for a better experience.

And, my observation has been that over the past three decades more and more churches have tried to grow by focusing on attracting other Christians rather than meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

A red ocean vs. blue ocean strategy for the church means reaching non-churchgoers [need-meeting] rather than just reaching church-goers [attraction]. Take a look at this comparison between the two strategies published by Sage Growth Partners.

Here is a helpful comparison:

 For more insights, see W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant (Boston: Harvard Business Review Books).

Photo source: istock

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-churches-need-blue-ocean-rather-than-red-ocean-strategies/

LEADERSHIP & “It is about vision, but management is about solving problems”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/22/17.

I ask my students the difference between leadership and management. Here are some quotes I’ve used to describe my thinking:

“Leadership can be more prestigious, more exciting and more visionary.  But management, that’s about solving problems”

 

“Management is what’s missing in our ministry leaders.”

 

“If you get kicked out of a church, it’s usually not because of bad theology or even poor leadership … but because of bad management.”

“Leadership is about vision, but management is about solving problems.”

RECONCILIATION & It is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a church foyer. #Quote

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Central, 4/10/17.

…Reconciliation begins with dialogue.

Reconciliation is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a fellowship foyer, fellowship hall, etc. But it needs to start somewhere, and it can be fostered there. What if people who enjoyed different musical genres could attend the same church, hear the same sermon (perhaps by different culturally relevant preachers) and then exit into a “fellowship hall/foyer” to meet with people of other cultures and learn how the sermon impacts each culture similarly and differently. This can begin a dialogue that can then branch out from Sunday morning to the rest of the week.

Here I think is the reason the quote that “10:30 is the most segregated time of the week” was utilized by Martin Luther King Jr. That is because our churches are segregated on Sunday mornings. This may be because most churches offer only one musical genre style of worship and therefore those who come to worship are primarily people attracted to one musical genre. I recently wrote a book with a colleague titled: re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press).

I pray fervently for churches to develop a ministry of reconciliation to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)…

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/why-i-dont-have-a-problem-with-segregated-worship-services/?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=emnaCCC04112017&cmp=1&utm_medium=html_email

NEED-MEETING & Why You Want a Blue Ocean, Rather Than a Red Ocean Strategy

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/17.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne analyzed 150 years of strategic decision-making and concluded that every strategy can be described as either a “red ocean strategy” or a “blue ocean strategy.” A red ocean strategy is where you go after the same people as your competitors and try to meet the same needs that your competitors are meeting. Therefore you fight over the same fish and, as sharks feeding on the same fish, the water becomes red with blood.

A blue ocean strategy however finds new segments of the market that are not having their needs met and begin to meet those needs. Therefore you are not competing with your competitors, but rather you are meeting needs in a segment of the market that the other competitors have overlooked.

This is very important for the church. Most churches typically try to have a better children’s ministry, a more professional worship team or a more visible/attractive facility in hopes of attracting people to the church. Typically this attracts other Christians looking for a better experience.

And, over the past three decades more and more churches have tried to grow by focusing on attracting other Christians rather than meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

Many years ago when the airline industry was suffering from too much competition, many carriers tried to increase their service to their flying customers. They wound up competing with each other and creating a red ocean of blood over the existing flying public. Stalwart and storied carriers such as Northwest Airlines disappeared.

At the same time a young start up company called Southwest Airlines focused on making flights cheaper along with the customer experience better. Their early motto was “everyone flies first class.” The result was meeting the need that a flying public desired of cheaper flights. This meant that they weren’t competing just for an existing market, but they were reaching out to people who typically didn’t fly to a nearby location. Now low cost meant the non-flying would considering a shorter flight.

A red ocean vs. blue ocean strategy for the church means reaching non-churchgoers [need-meeting] rather than church goers [attraction]. Take a look at this comparison between the two strategies published by Sage Growth Partners.

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