Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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As I mentioned in my last three posts, I had the opportunity last week to attend a short course at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University called “Leading a Vibrant Faith Community.” Twenty students from a variety of Christian and Jewish traditions came together to learn about topics typically discussed at business school, but not at seminary, learning from Kellogg’s world-class professors. The last three posts have discussed managing polarities (vis-à-vis the denomination’s marriage study), the leader as person (and the need to be someone worth following), and the intergroup attribution bias (and its impact on our polarized church). In today’s post I want to explore the tension between loving the organization and loving the person.
Over dinner on Thursday, Dean Sally Blount of the Kellogg School addressed the course participants. One of her two themes was the statement that “As leaders we have to love the organization more than we love the individuals who make up the organization.” At face value, it was fairly troubling to me. It reminded me of the conversation about whether corporations were people during the last election cycle! It seems to fly in the face of the shepherd’s care for the lost sheep.
As Dean Blount continued, however, it began to make more sense. What she meant was that as leaders, our charge is to make sure that the organization functions as faithfully and effectively as possible. If a staff member or volunteer is not able to contribute to that good functioning, as leaders we need to work with them so that their impact becomes more positive. If they are not able to address the concerns, the leader needs to make a choice.
It’s a hard choice. In ministry we naturally value each individual, and want to love them. We consider all the challenges making it difficult for them to contribute more fully. We don’t want to rock the boat. Sometimes we make space for their dysfunction. At times, this is the best choice, because their history with the organization or their value to the team is great, despite their current struggles. Making a change would actually make the organization perform worse.
Other times, however, we need to provoke the change that we might dread. Whether it is a staff member who needs to be redeployed, or a volunteer who can serve better elsewhere, the organization can function more faithfully and effectively once the change is made.
It’s a hard decision that can feel cold-hearted. Yet the more I think about it, the more the scriptural image in my mind moves from lost sheep to the lost opportunity explored in the parable of the talents. In this story, a rich man leaves sums of talents (great sums of money) to three stewards. The stewards who take risks are rewarded; the one who does not is punished. One takeaway is the importance of putting to use the resources that we have in ways that flourish.
I’m grateful that Dean Blount made the case for this point of view. Some reservations that remain in my mind include:
What thoughts do you have about Dean Blount’s premise?