Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reading books on culture, tearing down silos, building up teams and creating organizational health. The first book, Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities, by Mark Lau Branson and Jaun F. Martinez, is excellent. They give a lot of good examples, exercises and personal stories to make their point and keep the reader engaged. Their overall goal is to “promote more attentiveness, wisdom and faithfulness concerning intercultural life in and among churches and between churches and their neighbors” (12).
There is much that could be reflected on after reading this book, but the piece I want to hone in on is their discussion on community. First of the all, the authors differentiate between the definition of a society and culture. A society has more to do with “institutionalizing means for serving the goals of large social entities, culture embodies patterned meanings that have been developed over time and transmissible” to children and others who enter that culture.
A church is neither a culture or a society. A congregation in the United States is a conglomeration of many different cultures set in a larger society.
A community can be composed of persons from one culture or many cultures, and it is usually set in the midst of several society.
According to Josiah Royce there are three essential elements necessary to make a community: Memory, Cooperation and Hope.
There is the theological memory: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” “Jesus said, do this remembrance of me.” “Remember your baptism and be grateful.”
There is the traditional memory: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine,” “We always have done it that way….”
There are the shared memories: “I was there the day their daughter was baptized,” “I remember when he was born,” “Remember when we had worship in the dark?” “I remembered when he was diagnosed.” “Remember how we came together?”
Cooperation is the second essential element for making a community. A community has explicit or implicit agreements or covenants that are embodied in how the “educate their children, communicate, work, eat and dance.” I have talked to people who come from smaller churches who are always surprised when people aren’t “willing to step up and work more.” Or other people wonder why we don’t “just hire that job out.” Or rely or don’t rely on email. Or use social media. And then there is the judgment on the Christmas and Easter folks. The people we only see twice a year. Are they part of the community or are they guests in the greater community? Or is community defined by those who contribute financially or volunteer?
Third, we gotta have hope. There are two important words there, we and hope. Communities are not about individual goals, success or achievements. Communities create the assurance that we are never alone and the future is better because not matter what happens we are in it together.
There is much more that could be said about this book, but that should at least give you a taste.
The second book is by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni and his book Silos, Politics and Turf Wars. Lencioni writes that Silos and turf “enable, and devastate organizations. They waste resources , kill productivity and jeopardize the achievements of goals” ( viii.)
One way to keep silos from happening is by having a strong leadership team. In Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni remarks that without trust, the ability to have conflict, accountability, commitment to a common goal, politics and infighting ensues.
A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for an organization.
Lencioni talks about collective responsibility, which implies more than anything a selfless, shared sacrifice from team members. It means the Christian Ed committee is invested in mission and mission is invested in worship and worship is invested in youth and youth is invested in the building, and the building is invested in PW.
Great teams are willing to be vulnerable, have trust, be transparent and admit short comings.
They have to be willing to put the team before themselves.
Next, healthy organizations have clarity. It’s all about communication and alignment. In his book “Advantage, ” Lencioni says to have organizational health we need to ask 6 questions:
1. Why do we exist?
2. How do we behave?
3. What do we do?
4. How will we succeed?
5. What is most important, right now?
6. Who must do what?
These questions are so important for the church! I visited a mega church the other day. It had a huge youth center with fake palm trees and awesome facilities and I thought, “we can’t compete with that!”
Further, when the world says “God is in the sunset and in the snowflake and you can be spiritual and not religious and who really needs organized religion anyway?” we better be able to very clearly explain these 6 questions and not with schmaltzy answers, but with passion and common understanding.
We need to know why exist and we need to be able to know that based on what we believe, not what society says we should be.
We must know our reason for existing.
Discipline 3, after building a team and knowing who we are, is to overcommunicate clarity. We have to communicate who we are, what we believe, and what matters over and over and over again.
There is more to say about all of this, but for now, I will let this all simmer. I think Paul must have been wanting the church in Corinth to consider these questions when he wrote about the church being like one body. Maybe he was on to something….
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” First Corinthians 12.