August 2016

The City Is Once Again the Place to Be

Here is an interesting quote.


We may be a century-old company, but we need to move quickly, take risks, fail fast and behave like a startup to keep winning. …until recently our management could make every decision in the headquarters. Those days are over.


The quote is from Jeff Immelt, the Chairman and CEO of GE.


What he describes applies to most organizations in the modern age. If you are not embracing the mindset of a startup and not prepared to perpetually live as if starting over, your survival is in jeopardy.


What good news for the church!


Most churches are small and have been struggling to find a place in a fast-changing world that still idealizes “large.” All small churches should be well-acquainted with the start-up mentality. They have probably been living in start-up mode for decades.


The problem is that this has been seen as undesirable, a challenge, or interpreted as congregations in death throes. In reality, what small churches faced decades ago was a harbinger for what was to come for all churches. They/We were on the frontline of learning to deal with fast-paced change.


Today, we are coming to understand every organization faces the challenge of change. Fundamental change.


Back to the Cities

Read the entire post surrounding this quote from GE’s leader. You’ll find more good news. GE is moving from the comfort of the suburbs to vibrancy of the city.


The city is no longer viewed as a wasteland to be avoided. The illusion of the city as festering with crime and poverty is suddenly stripped away. GE wants to be where the hospitals, research, and universities are. Immelt calls it “an ecosystem made by and for innovation.”


This movement (and GE is not alone) reveals where the Church has made major blunders. The church wrote off its urban neighborhood churches when the suburbs began to attract young home buyers. In the best cases, they neglected the cities and country, providing status quo leadership. They call it caretaker ministries. In the worst cases, they provided next to no leadership and either strong-armed the congregations or eroded the lay leadership to get the desired result—a closed church with the property and financial assets benefiting the regional body and the suburban mindset.


So here we are four decades after the great migration from the cities to the suburbs.


What is happening? City neighborhoods are once again seen by today’s young people as desirable. They are moving back to neighborhoods like East Falls in Philadelphia. They are determined to stay and not take off when the oldest child is school age. They love being close to the cultural choices and diversity that differentiates city from suburb. They are passionate and vocal. They have discovered the power of the internet.


We are seeing this in East Falls, where the newcomers to our neighborhood are so dedicated to making East Falls a neighborhood where they want to stay that they started a competing civic group with Facebook pages dedicated to the issues that concern them. It is exciting to watch.


But our denomination is behind the eight ball. They followed other denominations and worked the last two decades to close congregations, making sure any remaining wealth went their way.


The strategy appears to have backfired. The regional bodies are now stranded in the suburbs by decades of cloudy vision and poor decisions. The land and endowment funds that could have helped them regain a fold hold in the city are gone.


The city is once again right down their demographic alley. But they have sold the land—dirt cheap in many cases. They have spent the endowment funds that were given for ministry in these neighborhoods and squandered them on their own survival.


Now, if they are to regain a presence in the city, they will have to shell out at least five times their short-term windfall. Mission in the city has been made all but impossible.


The article interviewing GE’s CEO is part of a series. It goes on to talk about how GE is working to change its culture. They are working to create an environment where every decision need not be dictated or blessed by the management. Employees are encouraged and empowered to share insights and act upon them quickly—without years of jockeying to be noticed and approved. They are accepting that failure is to be expected somewhere along the way.


Can this advice help churches?


photo credit: Metro Manila from Mandaluyong via photopin (license)

Study Explores Effectiveness of Church Councils

This study, published in Christianity Today, addresses the effectiveness of church governing boards. It has some interesting findings.

Here are the highlights of the findings, but there is much more to gain from studying the entire document.

  • Board members were chosen by someone other than the lead pastor.

  • Policies were in place—and the board had the ability—to ask an underperforming staff member to resign.

  • The board was able to challenge and correct a lead pastor when necessary.

  • An active strategic planning process was in place.

  • Time and energy were devoted to assessing risks and opportunities.

  • The board guided the staff with strategic—but not tactical—input.

The study also found that governing boards are more effective when they have more power.

The study would be helpful in training board members.