There is an overwhelming amount of things to reflect on from Jim Collins for our leadership and ministry assimilation. It feels as if his research and concepts have been a part of all of my ministry leadership years. And it basically has been.
I could start with just the title of Good to Great and dive into my convoluted relationship with the word “great”. I left youth ministry for the Philippines as an eighteen-year-old with a heavy pressure to do great things for God or else. It did not go well, at least at the soul level. This has made me cautious that in leadership positions we do not project greatness on sheep as a means of subtle manipulation for our mission fulfillment. How do we call people up to greatness while maintaining the theological pin of it actually being God doing the great things? What is the Christian definition of “great” and our role in what He is doing in the world?
But it is the nuances between the measurements used in business and in church life that is of most personal research interest. I have spent days and probably months of my life quantifying and measuring and reviewing church data. And I believe in it. And I also believe there are some things that are difficult to graph.
We should measure all that we can in our ministries – at least all that is meaningful. And the churches I have served with have been wise enough to do that. It provides information from which to make decisions. I have used ratios for hiring and ministry trends to set agendas. Stewardship of resources and the accountability that goes with it are requisites for any ministry endeavor.
Measures can help inform strategy. I am a fan of identifying outcomes we want to partner with God to accomplish that are in line with His heart. (Rates of crime, divorce, etc. or percentage of church attendance in our region are examples.) Collins’ hedgehog principle would aid a social sector organization to identify and focus tenaciously on something like this by finding the overlap between passion, uniqueness and resource engines.And then we back up and examine the inputs needed to positively affect the outputs. And then we stick with it – let’s see that wheel fly. I believe so much of what Collins’ purports would dramatically and positively impact the Church.
So the winner is strategy and execution and measures to inform it?
But the truth is, we are in the people “business” and people are never “done”. Is the heart fully formed to perfect Christlikeness while on planet earth? Are not there some things that only God knows? Do we know how God works in a person’s heart exactly? And just because someone may have gone through our connections process or our leadership pipeline like we designed it, are we finished?
The fruit of the spirit and the process of sanctification seem – let me use a very academic word here – squishy. They are difficult to measure. And trust me, we have attempted to quantify it but there are things that are elusive. And that is ok. We are not God. Isn’t the job of ministry leaders to just love people well on behalf of God?
So the winner is people and just loving them?
I still believe it is both. I am reminded of the polarity surfing analogy as a way to conclude. Strategies and execution are interdependent on people and caring. My mind wants to solve and fix the tension. Is it strategy and execution that make ministry happen? Or is it the loving and caring for people? Yes.
Polarities are issues that are never solvable in any way that could last…Whenever you think about a pendulum swinging from one side to then overcorrecting to the other, you have a polarity. Each side of the polarity mutually creates the other so they are interdependent; they need each other to exist.
The end of all of this is the love of God and of people, let’s say. The means is often the God-inspired strategies and our execution. It is important to not confuse the two certainly but it may not work well to eliminate one side of the pole either.
Collins, James C. Good to Great and the Social Sectors. S.l.!: Jim Collins, 2005, 19.
Garvey Berger, Jennifer and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders ( Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015), 96.