Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tasks vs. Results

          I'll be the first to say that administration is not my gift.  So, wading out into the ocean of organizational theory might be a bit like a pastoral walking-the-plank for me.  But, on the other hand, I have found myself time and again in leadership situations where significant organizational change is needed.  Maybe God has a sense of humor, or maybe he just wants to use somebody who recognizes he isn't going to get anything done on the organizational level without a lot of divine intervention.  Because of this, I like the KISS approach to organizing church (Keep It Simple Stupid).  My KISS method is to stick with a results-oriented organization as opposed to a task-oriented organization.

          In a task-oriented system, everything lives or dies with the to do list.  The focus is accomplishing a few core functions.  For a Pastor, it might mean preparing sermons, visiting shut-ins, and attending meetings.  For an Elder it could mean serving communion, and listening to complaints from cranky congregants.  A Deacon might focus on simply counting money and making sure the building and grounds are in good order.  Joe Pew-Sitter, in this system, feels good that he attends the worship service every Sunday and puts something in the offering plate.  The problem?  People are unlikely to see a need for change and a transformation of the heart because these few tasks are just what we do.  It is spiritual cruise-control, driving the car of mediocrity.  Meetings and church services, then, tend to be ends in themselves (frustrating and boring!) because the meeting itself is just something that gets scratched off the to do list.  Churches that have a hard time making decisions are probably stuck in the task-oriented mode, because there is no over-arching framework from which to decide anything.  So, people entrench themselves in positions based in personal preferences.  It's the world of heated conversations and worship wars.  If motivation and morale is dependent on people getting their way, no one is likely to be happy.  The great need for a task-oriented church is a big picture vision that seeks results.

          The results-oriented organization focuses on achieving some desired outcomes.  Tasks or functions are never ends in themselves, but will continually change in order to accomplish the results we want.  This is a church oriented around mission.  Jesus came to this earth to accomplish the salvation of the world.  He was on a mission - a mission of love that was intent on extending grace to lost sinners.  In this setting, decision-making becomes exciting since a group of people come up with ideas and tasks that will bring about loving people and reaching them with the grace we have received from God.  Personal preferences take a back seat to the great needs of the community.  There is freedom to experiment and imagine together, instead of guilt for not getting that thing crossed off the to do list.

          I am really a person who likes to create lists and feels good when I can scratch everything off of it at the end of the day.  But I make sure that those things are means to an end, and not the end itself.  By orienting my ministry around mission (God's, not mine) I am able to create tasks and functions that contribute to seeing the kingdom of God break into the church and the world.  So, here is the KISS questions for every  church leadership team:  What result(s) would you like to see in your church?  What kind of tasks will help you get the results you want?


          Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not overtake it.  We can participate and change and grow and live and learn without fear of screwing the church up and making it more complicated than what it is because Jesus is the One building it.  All we need is a bit of grace with each other to step out by faith and make a difference.  May it be so.

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