This is the final installment on the series Bullfrogs in Wheelbarrows. Here we get to the level of implementing our plan. The work of any church can be divided into two basic parts – maintenance and ministry. The maintenance side is all about meeting the needs of the organization. Any organization requires a certain amount of effort simply to keep the organization afloat. In a church this means that you need a finance committee, a building and grounds committee, a stewardship committee and perhaps one or two others. These are important ministries in themselves and should be see as such. Folks in these committees are real servants to the entire community and it is their work that allows the church to continue to exist. However, if you compare the needs you identified in the strategic plan to the committee structure that you have, probably not one of committees on the maintenance side would be reflected. Thus it is important to differentiate between an individual ministry (which may be to serve on the Finance Committee) and the ministry of the church, which is to meet needs of individuals, families and the community at large.
Overhead and Human Capital
If you considered maintenance of the organization as “overhead”, you would almost certainly want to allocate only a small percentage of your resources to that effort. The vast bulk of your efforts would be spent in actually doing the work of the business. Perhaps the most valuable asset that a church has is its people and the commitment, creativity, imagination and hard work that they put into making the church a viable place. These hours of time are a form of “capital” that must be stewarded. Thus a significant goal would be to decrease the volunteer hour “overhead” that goes into maintaining the organization and increasing the amount that goes to meeting the needs of individuals, families and the broader community.
So let’s look at your existing committee structure. Take out two sheets of paper and create three columns. Title the first two Maintenance and Ministry, respectively. List your existing committees under each column. Under the third column list the Needs from your strategic plan. (as outlined in the last article). Now draw lines from each need to the committee that is meeting that need. What is the overlap?
On your second sheet of paper, reorganize your church so that each need has a group of people that is meeting that need. Some needs may be subdivided, but the idea is that we are focusing on the needs and the needs are driving structure, not the other way around. On the Maintenance side of the chart, put the minimum number of people necessary to do that job. For example, some churches have found that a committee of 1 is sufficient for finance if it is the right person and there is good oversight. This is an important number to keep in mind as think about all of the work that must be done in the church Many churches are finding that committees work well on the Maintenance side of the chart, but that the committee model carries too much baggage to work well on the Ministry side. One option to consider would be to have Ministry Teams that are focused on a need with a steering committee of a couple of team members who actually meet to discuss the coordination of the work of the team.
Now the ministry teams or committees are charged with meeting the need based on the strategic plan’s statement. The Board can take its hands off and the creativity and imagination of the people on those teams can simply go to town on meeting those needs. These committees or ministry teams can look at the need, at the statement in the strategic plan, go to work to meet that need as it sees fit. The Board exists to monitor issues as they arise and, in rare cases, to intervene if groups need to be called back to task.
Now you have structure that allows for maximization of the chaordic nature of the church. It is now powered from the periphery but unified at the core; it is based on clarity of share purpose and principles; it enables and empowers its constituent parts; it is durable in purpose, but malleable in form and function; it has distributed power, rights and responsibility; it should liberate and amplify ingenuity, initiative and judgment; it is compatible with and fosters diversity, complexity and change; and it restrains power and embeds authority in persons vested with accomplishing the tasks.
A Side Note on Giftedness
In the early Christian church, there was a recognition that people have different roles to play in the life of a church. They saw these roles as "charisma" or "gifts" given by God to individuals and the community. These gifts were part of what made individuals feel special and connected to the community, gave them a sense of purpose and that they were a valued and important contributor. From what I have seen in UU churches, we don't focus on this much. I think that is a shame. Clearly the gifts and talents that we have are diverse and many of us can serve the church in a variety of ways, but my guess is that most of us have a place where we feel most productive and most useful to our community and where the work most fulfills us. Any chaordic organization should take than giftedness into account and, perhaps. as a church, it might not be a a bad idea to a bit more "charismatic" in the sense of empowering people to do what they are good at and what has heart and meaning for them. This sense of giftedness is often what moves our contributions of time and effort from being "work" to "play".
At the end of this process we have come to creating a model that
1. Accounts for the chaordic nature of most UU churches
2. Ties every aspect of the organization in meeting basic needs.
3. Provides clarity to each person in the organization.
4. Creates an empowering and effective construct for meeting the real needs of people.
I hope that this has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have.
If you want to start this series from the beginning, go to Bullfrogs in Wheelbarrows.
© 2007. Matthew Wesley. All rights reserved.