INNOVATION & Video of Simon Sinek graphing the “diffusion of innovation” & the “tipping point” at TEDxPuget Sound

Commentary by Prof. B.: As an early adopter (13.5%) I sometimes grow impatient with the slowness brought to the diffusion of innovation by the slow pace of the early majority and late majority.  As Sinek has pointed out, you cannot have a movement until you have attained 15-18% market penetration (the so-called “tipping point”) between the early adopters (me) and my colleagues/students (early majority).  Here is Simon Sinek graphing this relationship in a short 10-minute TEDx talk.

Read and watch more at … and

ETHICS & Simon Sinek at TEDxPuget Sound on “How great leaders inspire action”

Commentary by Prof. B.: In my introductory course on leadership we discuss the importance and impact of ethical behavior in leaders.  We look at Alexander Hill’s three aspects of ethics: right action, just action and acting in love.  Hill bases these elements on a biblical and theological foundation.  Simon Sinek, author and futurist, describes these same three aspects of ethics in his TEDx talk on what inspires action in followers.

Read and watch more at … and

Download the rest of the chapter “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel in The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

CULTURAL ADAPTERS & A exercise to help you identify consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.

Commentary by Prof. B.: Recently a student shared a case study which is not too dissimilar to what many of my students and colleagues have experienced. This student created an informal fallacy by equating generational age to culture. Here is the LEAD 600 student’s case study followed by an exercise  the reader can utilize to identify the consonant, selective and dissonant adapters in the story.

Student: You’ve presented a particularly intriguing ethical dilemma. You (another student) said, “Based upon research from Barna, more than ¾ of Christians come to faith before they are 21 years old.” However, you also stated, “The older worship leader should have equal opportunity to a worship position.” Therein lies the dilemma. Equality has forever been a problem in society. In his classic book on poverty and racism, Howard Thurmon closed a chapter with the following words: “Instead of relation between the weak and the strong there is merely a relationship between human beings. A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity.” In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense. However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense. Of course, Thurmon is referring to serious issues like the racism of the 40’s and 50’s. However, from a broad ethical perspective, his statement remains true and useful.”

I responded:  I appreciate that you stated, “In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense.  However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense.”

I think the key is to not always equate age with culture. Doing su could be an informal fallacy. By that I mean, your point seems to be that the worship leader should relate to the age of those people who make a decision for Christ. However as we know, being part of an age demarcation, i.e. generation, does not necessarily mean they are part of that culture. There are many people who live and assimilate into a dissimilar culture from which they’ve been raised. The culture in which most people have been raised is age specific. But we all know people who have been raised in one culture and yet relate to another… even assimilate into it.

To understand this phenomena is to understand the difference between “consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.” Charles Kraft gives an introduction to this phenomena in his classic, “Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective” (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

Kraft points out there are three types of adapters:

1) Dissonant adapters adapt very little to another culture because they’re very proud of their existing culture. They can become xenophobic and can usually only be reached by indigenous art forms such as music, liturgy and language.

2) Selective adapters adapting some areas but like to preserve the traditions of their culture. in my experience, they are often found in churches that offer blended services. They enjoy multiple cultures but sometimes are disingenuous: seeking to push other dissonant adapters to adapt beyond the comfort level of the dissonant adapters. This has been called the “creator complex,” e.g. to make over others in the image of our culture or the dominant culture. Wagner describes this as “Deep in the heart of man (sic), even in missionaries, lurks that ‘creator complex’ by which he (sic) delights in making other people over in his (sic) own image.” Wagner, C. P. (1979). “Our kind of people: The ethical dimensions of church growth in America,” John Knox Press, p. 76.

3) Consonant adapters adapt to a different culture previous culture and hold on very little to their previous culture.

There is a further an explanation of this in “The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart,” The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70)

Now, knowing those missiological terms, how would you analyze the players in this example? The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness to anthropological in sociological dynamics in our staffing, volunteerism and leadership.

LEADERSHIP & The Dark Side of Leadership: What it is and how to overcome it.

Commentary by Prof. B.: In my leadership classes students read Peter Northouse’s classic “Introduction to leadership.” In that textbook Northouse reminds us that not all leadership is good. He suggests there is a the dark side of leadership which he describes as, “the destructive side of leadership where a leader uses his or her influence or power for personal ends.”

Here is the way Northouse introduces this concept:

QUOTE Northouse Dark Side of Leadership.jpg

Peter G. Northouse, Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (New York: Sage Publications. Kindle Edition, 2011) p. 9.

In response to his statement one student said, “we allow for horrible men and women throughout history to be considered ‘great’ leaders.  We usually equate ‘agreeable outcomes’ with ‘great leadership.’ The big question then is: was Hitler a great leader?  That sounds like a landmine in a conversation…”

Though it is a landmine in a conversation, it must be addressed. One place I do this in my courses is in (e.g. in Alexander Hill’s writing) the importance of ethical practices and altruistic objectives in moral leadership.

In addition, a helpful book on this topic was written by a colleague of mine and his doctor of ministry student. It is titled: Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007). In this book Macintosh and Riva not only explore moral and ethical failures but also theological failure. They point out it is due to egoism subtly influencing our altruism. And they give ways to stay focused on God’s altruistic purposes.

Here are the five steps they suggest to overcoming your leadership darkside,:

1) Acknowledge your dark side

2) Examine your past

3) Resist the poison of expectations

4) Practice progressive self-knowledge

5) understand your identity in Christ

For more insights (and tools to displace the lure of our ego) see their helpful book: Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures

MULTITASKING & Subtle “switching costs” cut efficiency, raise risk.

Commentary by Prof. B: Butler and Herman, in their widely disseminated research, cite “multitasking” as an attribute of “effective church leadership.” But other research conflicts with this (see the summary of research below), suggesting that multitasking takes a toll on productivity.

This incongruity can be understood by a closer look at Butler and Herman‘s delimiters which seem to indicate that they are describing multitasking in the sense of macro-multitasking: i.e. tackling different tasks over an extended period time (e.g. workday or morning/afternoon) and not with the rapidly that it is common today with the advent of smart phones, computers and multiple communication mediums. The modern attributes of micro-multitasking were probably not in their minds when Butler and Herman undertook their original research. Thus the careful student of Butler and Herman may choose to apply their conclusions to macro-multitasking situations rather than micro-multitasking ones which are increasingly common due to in the rapidity and accessibility of today’s communication modalities.

Micro-multitasking (e.g. switching between tasks within minutes or even seconds) is usually ineffective because of two mental process that occur during the switch between tasks: the “goal shifting” (e.g. “I want to do this now instead of that”) and “rule activation” (e.g. “I’m turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this”). These two mental processes take time to complete and thus slow down the leader’s productivity. Read the following article for more insight

“Multitasking: Switching costs” by the editors, American Psychological Association, March 20, 2006.

What the research shows

Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity. Although that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has talked on the phone while checking E-mail or talked on a cell phone while driving, the extent of the problem might come as a shock. Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. Psychologists tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe.

Multitasking can take place when someone tries to perform two tasks simultaneously, switch . from one task to another, or perform two or more tasks in rapid succession. To determine the costs of this kind of mental “juggling,” psychologists conduct task-switching experiments. By comparing how long it takes for people to get everything done, the psychologists can measure the cost in time for switching tasks. They also assess how different aspects of the tasks, such as complexity or familiarity, affect any extra time cost of switching.

In the mid-1990s, Robert Rogers, PhD, and Stephen Monsell, D.Phil, found that even when people had to switch completely predictably between two tasks every two or four trials, they were still slower on task-switch than on task-repeat trials. Moreover, increasing the time available between trials for preparation reduced but did not eliminate the cost of switching. There thus appear to be two parts to the switch cost — one attributable to the time taken to adjust the mental control settings (which can be done in advance it there is time), and another part due to competition due to carry-over of the control settings from the previous trial (apparently immune to preparation).

Surprisingly, it can be harder to switch to the more habitual of two tasks afforded by a stimulus. For example, Renata Meuter, PhD, and Alan Allport, PhD, reported in 1999 that if people had to name digits in their first or second language, depending on the color of the background, as one might expect they named digits in their second language slower than in their first when the language repeated. But they were slower in their first language when the language changed.

In experiments published in 2001, Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, Jeffrey Evans, PhD, and David Meyer, PhD, conducted four experiments in which young adults switched between different tasks, such as solving math problems or classifying geometric objects. For all tasks, the participants lost time when they had to switch from one task to another. As tasks got more complex, participants lost more time. As a result, people took significantly longer to switch between more complex tasks. Time costs were also greater when the participants switched to tasks that were relatively unfamiliar. They got up to speed faster when they switched to tasks they knew better.

In a 2003 paper, Nick Yeung, Ph.D, and Monsell quantitatively modeled the complex and sometimes surprising experimental interactions between relative task dominance and task switching. The results revealed just some of the complexities involved in understanding the cognitive load imposed by real-life multi-tasking, when in addition to reconfiguring control settings for a new task, there is often the need to remember where you got to in the task to which you are returning and to decide which task to change to, when.

What the research means

According to Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein, converging evidence suggests that the human “executive control” processes have two distinct, complementary stages. They call one stage “goal shifting” (“I want to do this now instead of that”) and the other stage “rule activation” (“I’m turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this”). Both of these stages help people to, without awareness, switch between tasks. That’s helpful. Problems arise only when switching costs conflict with environmental demands for productivity and safety.

Although switch costs may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time…

Read more at …

STUDENT SUCCESS & A video introduction to my MDiv course: LEAD 600 Congregational Leadership

Commentary by Prof. B.:  Most weeks and in most courses, I put a link to my video introduction to the weekly assignments and give hints for getting more out of the course, its readings and its homework.  The video below is an introduction to the entire MDiv course, titled: LEAD 600: Congregational Leadership.

I have created many postings/videos to help you. And, you can easily use “keywords” to find the help you need:

  • Search for the keywords “Student Success” if you have a question about assignments, due dates, attendance, etc.
  • Search for something like “Intro. to LEAD 600 assignment _____________” to find video introductions to most weekly assignments.  Thus, each week use the key words “LEAD 600” along with a “key word” relevant to the weekly topic (e.g. “ethics,” “strategic leadership,” “budgeting,” etc.) to find specific video introductions to most weekly assignments
  • Search when you need information, not all at once.  I give you a lot of information because I want to help you as much as feasible.
    • And, because I have provided a lot of information, don’t try to read or watch all of my postings at once.
    • Rather, each week and when needed use keywords to find more information as you need.

So, use keywords like “LEAD 600,” in this wiki to find more hints about how to make the most out of this learning experience. Plus, you can also look ahead to postings and videos on upcoming assignments.

Welcome to the learning journey.  I hope you can tell from my enthusiasm that I look forward to participating with you in this educational experience.


THEOLOGY & New book biblically dissects weaknesses of a prosperity theology

Commentary by Prof. B:  As a Fellow of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, I am also a member of the Lausanne Movement (an evangelical movement to connect influencers with ideas for global mission, founded by Billy Graham). As such, we study practice and theology.  Sometimes students inquire about a prosperity theology and to help gain a theologically nuanced understanding I recommend Julia Cameron’s new book: Prosperity Theology and the Gospel (Hendrickson Publishers / The Lausanne Library. ISBN 978 1 68307 049 8).

Here is an excerpt by Ms. Cameron explaining the purpose of the book:

“New Book: Prosperity Theology and the Gospel” by Julia Cameron, Lausanne Movement, 12/7/17.

We … a group made up largely of theologians and missiologists, gathered from all continents, shared a sense of purpose. Our hope was to engage deeply with the ‘different gospel’ that has undermined the true gospel in many churches. One fruit of our gathering would be a book. Its publication took time, but now we offer to the church what I believe may be the most thorough book on this subject to date.

What, then, is this ‘different gospel’? It is widely-known as ‘prosperity theology’. Its teaching has parodied biblical teaching on the character of God, and created a new brand of ‘discipleship’, not known in Scripture. Its influence—promising so much—has caused untold harm. Leading up to the Third Lausanne Congress, I was working with Christianity Today on a series of articles and videos addressing critical issues in the church. The article on prosperity theology was one of the most-read…

It is important to note that there can be no condemning of prosperity itself. The group in Atibaia recognized a clear ‘theology of prosperity’ running through Scripture. Think, for example, of Abraham, David, and Solomon, men blessed with much material wealth, as of course Job had been. Indeed, the creation of wealth should be regarded as a Christian mandate, for the good of society. This, however, was not the brief for our work in Atibaia.

I am now able to commend to you Prosperity Theology and the Gospel: Good News or Bad News for the Poor?—a thorough, lucid, accessible, and, we trust, seminal book. Let’s be good stewards of what it offers.

As with all Lausanne books, we include study questions at the end of chapters. This could easily be used in church groups or workplace fellowship groups. The Atibaia Statement draws the threads of the book together. In its Conclusion, Femi Adeleye and Valdir Steuernagel take the four ‘calls’ of the statement and offer pointers for the church—the local church. Yours or mine.

Read more at …

Here is a video introduction to the Lausanne Movement:

MISS 600  LEAD 545  LEAD 565  LEAD 600

NEED-MEETING & A video intro to a “4-stage Need-based Outreach Strategy”

Commentary by Prof. B: I’ve created this video to not only introduce colleagues and clients to the efficacy of a “4-Stage Outreach Strategy,” but also to give my online students a sense of an introduction I would give in a live classroom. The viewer will find a concise intro to why most outreach efforts fail … because they are not holistically incorporating all “4-stages” of an outreach strategy. Plus, my LEAD-600 students will find this a helpful introduction to their classroom assignments on need-based outreach.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

You can find more on this in videos and excerpts from my books/articles at the below links (or by just searching for the words “need-based” or “need-meeting” on

FACILITIES & A Video Introduction to Avoiding Missteps w/ Ministry Facilities

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/17/17.

In this video introduction I explain how missteps with facility expansion, renovation or even just reallocation can severely hinder church health.  If you are a colleague, student, client or friend who would like to undertake an exercise designed to help you analyze past missteps and how to avoid them, start with this video intro.  Then read a chapter on this I have penned available HERE: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – GROWTH BY ACCIDENT Missteps with New Facilities 2. (If you like the insights please support publisher and author by buying a copy here. The download is excerpted from my book: Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.


STUDENT SUCCESS & Info on Makeup Work for Those Who Miss an Onsite Class

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/16/17.

(Note: If you are in an online course, please see the attendance parameters here:

Makeup Work for Excused Absences in Onsite Courses

Emergencies always occur and sooner or later they will interfere with a student’s attendance in an onsite class.  For instance, recently on the same classroom night a baby was born (congrats Thomas), a car transmission broke down (prayed for Lee) and another student was teaching at a nearby mega-congregation.

When events happen that prevent attendance at a live, onsite classroom session, here are the parameters I utilize in my courses for fairness and to continue learning:

  1. Request makeup work by contacting me.
    • Do so before the class if possible.
      • My mobile phone number is in the syllabus.
      • If you cannot phone, ask a classmate to let me know.
    • If you cannot let me know until afterward the class, do so at the earliest convenience.
  2. If there discussion points for the week (and most weeks there are) then with my approval your makeup work is the following :
    • In 400-600 words create a “plan” to implement something you learned from the required reading and outside sources you read for the missed week.
    • This plan should be actionable, meaning you describe a “detailed plan” about how you will employ it in your ministry setting.
    • Thus, it should include time-lines, due dates and delegation responsibilities.
    • You plan should include an evaluation element to show how you will know when you have met your goals of implementation.
    • As always,  use APA style including  a cover page, an abstract and (if needed) appendixes.
  3. Submit the plan within three weeks after the missed classroom period (or ask me for an additional extension if the emergency is ongoing).

Remember, attendance is different.

If you have any questions about the Wesley Seminary attendance policy, you can find it at the link below.  Just be aware that while I can give you makeup work, I ethically can’t mark you absent if you didn’t meet the official attendance requirements in the latest catalogue (available here:

Online has different parameters.

Class participation is different for an online course (which occurs over a 7-day week) and an onsite class (which occurs on just 1-2 days).  Hence, for an onsite class (with its limited discussion time) the parameters must be more lenient.

As stated above, if you are in an online course, please see the attendance and posting parameters here:

BUDGETING & My Video Introduction to Church Finances, Accounting & Budgeting

The area of church finances and accounting is woefully neglected in many of the churches I encounter. This video introduces learning activities that can be utilized by  my clients, colleagues and students to analyze their current financial practices … and improve them.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

OUT-GROUP MEMBERS & My Video Introduction to Strategies That Reach Them (part 2)

This is another video introduction I have recorded for my colleagues, students and clients regarding how to reach out to people who feel like they are not part of a group.  Called “out-group members” these are often people in our churches and on our boards that are estranged from the group.  Thus, they see themselves as “outside” of the group and not fully accepted by most members of the group. The responsible and effective leader will reach out to these individuals, rather than exclude them.  For an introduction to strategies that will help you connect with out-group members, watch this video. (This video will be especially helpful mini-lecture if you are a student in one of my courses.)

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

For more on out-group members, see this additional video I recorded:

keywords: LEAD 600 out group out-group video intro introduction

OUT-GROUP MEMBERS & My Video Introduction to Leading Out-Group Members (part 1)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/03/17.

This is an introductory video about how to not only lead deliberative bodies, but also how to lead the “out group” members you will usually encounter in these boards/committees/churches.  This video serves as an introduction to my students regarding the assignments associated with the important topic of leading those God has sent to your community, but who don’t yet fit in.

Additional insights can be found in an accompanying video that I recorded.  After you listen to the video below, click this next link to listen to 10 minutes more on ideas about how to reach out group members:

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

keywords: LEAD 600 out group out-group video intro introduction

GROUP EXIT & The answer to my exercise on how to respond to change proponents

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/02/17.

An exercise to understand how to handle new ideas.

I created an exercise (at this link) to help colleagues, students and clients identify how they should respond to people who bring new ideas to them. According to research by Dyke and Stark when a leader or a person in power gives even slight encouragement to “change proponents,” they will usually run too fast with the new idea and polarize the congregation in the process. The key when someone brings you a new idea, is instead to “Go Slow, Build Consensus and Succeed” (read an overview in the chapter by that name in Preparing for Change Reaction). You can also read more about how this happens in Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press) as well as an excerpted short introduction from on it from my book “Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Wesleyan Publishing House) at this link.

But, if you have undertaken the exercise (at this link) then below is the answer to the question regarding which option (Option A, Option B or Option C) was the “negative legitimizing event.”

(spoiler alert – do the exercise first)

The answer it is not as simple as many think at first view. That is because a negative “legitimizing” event is not the same as a negative event.

Let me explain.  Here is the negative event:

Option 1: Pastor H tells the congregation the church is going to implement Sunday evening small groups.

Most of you correctly saw this as a negative event because the pastor announced the change without first vetting it with the congregation, its leadership and even the naysayers. You all noticed that it was negative event. And, some of you were influenced by its negativity to see it as a negative legitimizing event. However it is not a negative “legitimizing event,” just a “negative event.”

Let me explain further: Here is the negative “legitimizing” event:

Option 2: Pastor D tells Pastor H he must be firm and forceful with the congregation.

What happens differently in a negative “legitimizing” event is that some person “legitimizes a new idea” and as a result the person wishing to implement the new idea moves too quickly. Pastor D “legitimized” the idea in away that would result in Pastor H moving too quickly and having a negative outcome.

So this was a “legitimizing” event that resulted in a negative outcome = negative legitimizing event.

Both Option 1 and Option 2 were negative events.

But, only Option 2 was a negative event where someone “legitimized” the idea. And, the person pushing for the idea (in this case pastor H) moved to quickly.

The lesson to draw from this, is that you must be careful when people bring a new idea to you. If you say to them, “Hey, Good idea” you might think you’re just being encouraging… but you will probably be legitimizing. You probably meant, “Hey, let’s look into it.” But change proponents are so stoked to move forward with this new idea they have been discussing, that they instead hear you say, “Hey, fantastic idea. Let’s move ahead with it.”

It is this “legitimizing” or “supporting” someone else’s new idea without first slowing that other person down that results in a negative event … which grew out of a “legitimizing action.”

So, for Pastor D to instead create a positive legitimizing event, he would’ve done this;

Option 2B: Pastor D tells Pastor H he must slow down, build consensus and even listen to the naysayers before he implements his new idea about small groups.

What happens is that Pastor D “legitimizes” Pastor H’s new idea in a manner that results in a positive outcome: hence, a “positive,” “legitimizing” “event.”

This is a important point to remember when people come to you with new ideas… because their success often depends on how you react.

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177For more info see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  The figure is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).

See also:

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 792-822.

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “Upheavals in Congregations: The Causes and Outcomes of Splits,” Review of Religious Research 38 (NY: Religious Research Association, 1996), 159-174.

Louis R. Pondy, “Organizational Conflict: Concepts and Models,” Administrative Science Quarterly 12 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 296-320

STUDENT SUCCESS & What you should cite in a book or resource

Students sometimes cite scholarly sources in a manner in which it is unclear to the professor that the student can apply the tools in the book they are citing.  To help students understand how to cite a book and specifically what exactly they should cite from an resource, I have filmed this short introduction.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

keywords: LEAD 600 545 558 557 545 711 712 701 outside sources citations

GROUP EXIT & My video intro re. how to change a church w/o losing members

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/26/17.

This is another video introduction I’ve recorded for my colleagues, students and clients regarding how to prevent group exit. Students may find this video helpful in understanding their homework on the topic.

More notes that can help the learner watching this presentation are available at the link below:

And, see this link for more material on group exit and how to prevent it:

keywords: LEAD 600 545 Staying Power group exit Dyke and Starke Go Slow, build consensus and succeed Preparing for Change Reaction

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.”


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]

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


Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former 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.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN

MANAGEMENT & Leadership: The difference according to Harvard prof. John Kotter

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. The following is a helpful synopsis on this relationship penned by one of my LEAD 600 students:

John Kotter (2012, p. 71) includes six characteristics or “-abilities” for an effective vision. It is to be

  • Imaginable: Conveys a picture of what the future will look like.
  • Desirable: Appeals to the long-term interests of employees, customers, stockholders, and others who have a stake in the enterprise
  • Feasible: Comprises realistic, attainable goals.
  • Focused: Is clear enough to provide guidance in decision making
  • Flexible: Is general enough to allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions
  • Communicable: Is easy to communicate; can be successfully explained within five minutes

Kotter (2012) also notes that a vision is only one element in a larger system that includes strategies, plans, and budgets (p. 70). I like how he diagrams it (p. 71):


This may be a good framework to use for anchoring vision in the context of our Leadership and Management Growth plans.

Grace & Peace, Larry

Kotter, J. (2012). Leading Change. [Kindle DX eBook version]. Retrieved from


CHANGE & My video introduction to “The 4 Forces that Control Change” #LEAD600

Here is a video introduction to articles I have written (for anyone) and assignments (for students in LEAD 600, etc.) that deal with controlling change (which we call theories of changing). It introduces the viewer to “The Four Forces that Control Change” and how to manage each.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

Articles mentioned in the video as well as additional articles are available at the following links:

Download the Church Executive article by Bob Whitesel here:  ARTICLE_Four Forces-Whitesel (Church Executive Article)

Fownload the article in the Journal of the Great Commission Research Network here: article-whitesel-gcrn-toward-a-holistic-and-postmodernal-theory-of-change-in-cg-literature-gcrn . To subscribe and/or receive more information about The Great Commission Research Journal (the new name) click here:

And find more “theories of changing” articles on here:




CONFLICT & A video intro to LEAD 600 homework on conflict resolution & power-plays

This is a video that I provide to my students as an introduction to the weekly LEAD 600 (Congregational Leadership) topics.  I hope it also creates the feeling of a live course.

The video was recorded at the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) which I was attending in Detroit. Dr. John Perkins (founder of the CCDA) has greatly influenced my thinking as evident from these excerpts that reflect Dr. Perkins’ influence on my articles and books.

©️Bob Whitesel used by permission only.