I recently read this post from Seth Godin (Scientific Management 2.0) and immediately saw the relationship to churches.
Almost 40 years ago, I was hired by General Motors to be an Industrial engineer who did exactly what Seth is talking about…to eliminate “forced idle” time out of every job on the assembly line. Then I was put into a beta group to do this with salary people. I know first hand the challenges, successes and ultimate failures of this approach. Seth is rightfully railing against this mechanistic approach which views people as cogs. Employees were no longer seen as people with minds and hearts to contribute; only hands to complete a task.
My fear in churches is that the church totally skipped this era…we always viewed people as people, so much so we never developed consistent systems to ensure there were no holes in the mission. For instance:
1. To ensure EVERY visitor experiences a warm welcome and receives followed up
2. To ensure EVERY child experiences a positive, Christ-centered experience in their class
3. To ensure EVERY small group provides an experience for life change to occur
4. To ensure EVERY staff member knows his/her role, authority, responsibility and accountabilities
5. To ensure EVERY financial contribution is checked and double checked
These are just some of the vital systems needed in a healthy church in order for her to fulfill her mission…to see people come to know Christ and follow him in all with of their heart. Seems in most churches we were afraid of Scientific Management (as described by Godin) so we reacted and never developed systems. Therefore, we never attained consistency or excellence in our ministries. Therefore, we failed in our mission.
There is a balance between seeing people as cogs and seeing every person as doing their own thing. The key is to see people as gifted and called, while at the same time ensuring some missional standards are met, no matter what the size of the church. Some think this only applies to larger churches. Let me suggest it is more obvious in larger churches, but even smaller churches need them IF they are going to be effective in their mission.
Even in my family of five, we had systems (making the bed when you got up, not eating outside the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner, not talking on phone or TV during dinner, etc.). Size doesn’t matter, mission does. You see these practices were important for us to be a family with time to build each other up and experience safety in our home. What often keeps churches small is that they have so many holes in their ministries because of this lack of attention to consistent ways of doing ministry (systems), that they have mission leak. Their mission leak is so bad, they never gain the momentum needed to gain health and multiply.
So, while Godin is right, the church hasn’t been right in the other extreme…
Post contributed by Greg Wiens, HGC Chief Catalyst.