Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staff Management As Open, Innovative Systems Part I

One subject about which I am deeply passionate and interested is organizational development and "management" in religious settings.

If it were an option, rather than choosing between Community Minister, Minister of Religious Education, or Parish Minister, I would seriously consider a speciality in Minister of Organizational Development. One of the reasons that many faith communities are in decline in the United States is that religious organizations are not keeping up their development in pace with society's development.

Society is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. Meanwhile, religious organizations are for many good reasons on "glacial time." This serves no small number of important religious purposes (and I firmly believe that many religious leaders can improve their relationships with the folks in their organizations by slowing down on many levels), but in adapting ministries for changing populations, moving so slowly does nothing but hold us back.

For this reason, I think we would be well-served to expand our thinking about types of ministries to include the ministering that goes on at the organizational rather than individual level of any faith community. (That's my percolating argument for adding another type of ministry to the UUA ministry categories, if such categories must remain.)

I share all this to say that my interest in organizational development has led to some thinking recently about staff development and management in churches. In particular, I am interested in how staff teams can function in such a way that promotes innovation and outreach. My dad recently posted this TED video on the Facebook page for his coffee house (you'll see why), and somewhere around the six or seven minute mark, my ears started to perk up:

In the church in which I currently work, daily lunch table discussions are important for this reason. The tradition has long been that when folks are around and available, we eat together at noon. At lunch there is talk about everything from politics to the personal, but on occasion we talk a little business, and that serves a healthy purpose. The Director of Music is unfortunately rarely present, as he does not have an office nor "office hours" at the church, and neither myself nor the minister seem to be able to attend lunch on a daily basis, so the administrative staff and "support staff" are the most regular lunch attendees. Nonetheless, there are periodic occasions in which conversations over lunch are particularly fruitful in our work together.

Yet creating an innovative staff team, I have come to believe, takes more intentionality. Just being in the same room is as likely in the church setting to create a culture of camaraderie in the status quo, or even a place to vent and affirm fears about change, as it is to nurture the kind of open, collaborative systems of innovation that Steven Johnson is talking about in the TED video.

People want to have a meaningful part in something meaningful. All too many folks working as staff in churches come to find that they don't have a meaningful place in the life of their churches unless they inextricably link themselves to maintenance of systems. I'd like to see more churches breaking this mold and moving in the direction of properly supporting good, healthy, current, and relevant systems while also giving staff a meaningful place in something beyond the maintenance of those systems.

That's what I want to explore in part II of this (two part?) post series.

No comments:

Post a Comment