Sunday, August 10, 2008

The More Things Change...

the more they stay the same? That seems like an appropriate bit of wisdom to keep in mind as I reflect on part of the message I received at church yesterday. But I should backtrack a bit.

As some may recall, I have recently been doing some searching for a new church home. This has included some research into what most would probably consider to be some pretty radical belief systems. For example, I dug pretty deeply into the Thomasine Church, although at this time I don't think it is right for me. Trying to keep somewhat in alignment with Judeo-Christian faiths, I also recently looked at some of the non-mainstream denominations like the Mennonites. Out of this, one that I found that was particularly interesting to me is the Quaker faith. I even went so far as to read A Living Faith by Wilmer A. Cooper which covered a lot of the history and belief system of the Quakers. As an aside, jmo, but it seems the Quaker faith is as diverse as any of the other mainstream Christian denominations (think of all the different forms of Baptist there are).

Without going into all the aspects that I find attractive about Quakerism (at least, as much as I can understand at this point with my limited exposure), I'll try to get back on track. Deciding to try out the Quaker faith, I have started to attend the Graham Friends Church. From what I gather to this point, the Graham Friends Church has split from the "official" Quaker meeting in North Carolina (I'm still getting bits and pieces of history), so it may best be described as non-denominational with a strong Quaker soul.

Recently the pastor, Mark Ryman, has discussed the difference between a good church and a great church. In the midst of this discussion this past Sunday, he was talking about the potential for changes in the way the church operates, makes decisions, and generally gets things done. This is where things started to intersect with my professional interest in organizational development issues (and after all, churches suffer from many of the same organizational challenges as any other organization). As Mark noted, the church was struggling with committees and how they tend to slow things down (nee, even bring things to a halt). And especially in this day and age, those who are interested in helping out with something are often more interested in getting on with it rather than sitting through committee meetings. As Mark noted, the time has perhaps come for the church to identify those who can do something about (fill in the blank), are interested in doing, and to let them have at it.

Those who know me well can probably recognize how similar that sentiment is to one of my favorite quotes (find more of my favorite quotes here):
“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” - Theodore Roosevelt

When I worked for Alamance County, it was probably the number one quote I tried to live by in managing all the people who reported to me. And in my role as a consultant now, it is one of the best pieces of advice I think I can give to clients or anyone else willing to listen.

Besides that bit of wisdom, Pastor Ryman also spent time going over some of the teachings of Jesus that can guide us in how a church should be organized and operated. Some of that was the source for the comment about finding the right person for a job and letting them do that. The rest of the message was equally profound in implementing what would be considered best practices if applied in the business world.

So a couple nuggets I took away from the message included the insight about how the teachings of Jesus in how to setup/organize a church are equally applicable in other areas of our life and in the business world. The other nugget is how so many folks think they are discovering these truths about how to get organizations to function properly. Yet even a hundred years ago Teddy Roosevelt was already on that track (and no doubt others before him), but even more significant, Jesus was teaching this to all who would listen to his message some 2,000 years ago. As I said to start out this post, the more things change...

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