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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This is the fifth and final post resulting from the opportunity I had 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 four posts have discussed managing polarities, the leader as person, intergroup attribution error, and the question of loving the organization more than the individuals. Today’s post looks at a concept called “organizational ambidexterity” and attention to new worship communities and existing congregations within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Professor Nicholas Pearce is a Kellogg professor of Management and Organizations as well as associate pastor of a thriving congregation in Chicago. According to his presentation, organizational ambidexterity is a twofold approach to marshaling resources. Using his language, “one part of the organization exploits the existing model [of doing business] while a different part explores new opportunities.” In other words, for an organization to thrive, it must continue to invest in what continues to work from the past, as well as investing in new initiatives which will help it to thrive in the future. An example from the for-profit world might be Gillette, which (before being purchased by Proctor and Gamble) sought to have 20% of its sales be from products released in the previous five years.
The PC(USA) is in year two of a ten-year goal of igniting a movement of 1001 New Worshiping Communities. This effort has been met with great success; four months shy of two years in, already 199 new communities are existing, many of which are racial ethnic and led by young adults. These new worshiping communities are sometimes called the “R&D lab” for the denomination, showing existing congregations new and innovative ways to do ministry. In Professor Pearce’s construct, these communities are the way that the church explores new opportunities.
Equally important, however, is for the church to continue to invest in existing congregations. (In Pearce’s words, to exploit the existing model.) Specifically, the role of the Presbyterian Mission Agency is to continue to inspire, equip, and connect these churches to thrive. There’s no doubt about it—the 1001 initiative is exciting and the results are thrilling. The new communities should and do garner a lot of attention. But I’m grateful that the work of the Mission Agency supports, in all sorts of ways, the work of existing congregations. Our strategic directions on engaging young adults, developing transformational leaders, and encouraging compassionate and prophetic discipleship all focus largely on existing congregations.
A concern is sometimes raised that the Mission Agency is not, in fact, organizationally ambidextrous—that we have centered ourselves so much on the new worship communities that we have left behind our support of existing churches. In fact, we are working toward this ambidexterity which allows us to invest in new ministries while at the same time continuing the support the vital ministry existing congregations do each and every day.