Editor's Section

Get Set

In industries where lifting is involved it is necessary to train people how tolift. To those outside this experience it may sound silly. Don't you just bend over and pick the thing up? But for those who have to live day by day with back injuries and those companies who have had to pay compensation for those injuries and lost valuable staff to sick leave it indeed does not sound silly! So, responsible companies teach their people how to lift.

You lift with your legs, not your back and before you lift you must get set. To get set, you squat down, straighten and lock your back, firmly grasp the object to be lifted and then stand up using your legs while keeping your back straight. Of course it certainly helps if you are in good physical condition to begin with.

The second parallel is from venture capital. Start-up businesses often fail precisely because they succeed. A contradiction? No, a paradox. Here's why: You have developed a great product, used your savings and received a bank loan to get underway. You have a small manufacturing facility with three employees. You do the selling yourself and your business plan projects a hundred customers by the end of the first year. Your savings and the bank loan will be sufficient to finance this growth. All is well and you feel warm and comfortable.

But then you find your business growing far faster than the business plan anticipated. You have to expand quickly in order to meet the demand. Instead of a hundred customers at the end of the first year you have ten thousand! Your problem is now cash flow because you have to meet repayment commitments. It has been said that banks will lend you just enough money for you to get into trouble and often that is the case. This is where venture capitalists come in. A competent venture capitalist will every day receive dozens of business plans for potential businesses. So, s/he knows what s/he is looking at. When a venture capitalist joins you in your business it is not just to provide you with a source of funds but to be a strong presence in your company to ensure the success of your business. A venture capitalist has no intention of failing and they will intervene in your business as much as is required in order to ensure success. And here is the point: They follow your cash flow and inject more money as needed to cover your expansion. You succeed instead of fail.

Now let's apply these thoughts to your church. And we will assume your church is serious about mission in your neighborhood - you may want to give this some thought before you say 'of course we are'. In Vancouver there is one church that is developing an excellent full-spectrum ministry, full spectrum in multi-cultural, cradle to very old, straight background to street/drug background. It is expanding rapidly. On top of this, there is a general malaise among other churches in Vancouver and disgruntled Christians from these churches are attending in increasing numbers. Living close to the church there are also one or two Christians who have started digging out local residents whose lives are not good. Within the space of a couple of months they have brought a half dozen new regular attendees into the church. Some of these new folk require fairly intensive pastoral care. If more members started bringing in new people the church would not know how to handle the increase. That would put the church in the very bad position of not being able to provide for the demand.

In multi-level marketing these active members would be called taproots. Taproots outperform other members and need special attention, including pro-active pastoral attention themselves because they can burn out. They can also lazily be regarded as stand-alone resources and this is not healthy since the church is a body, not a collection of discrete entities acting alone.

Hence it is important to get set for expansion and plan to have sufficient resources ready so service to new people can be provided without disruption or failure. The keyword for expansion is scalable. It helps first to examine your own templates. Do you think like a military general who has to have control over everything? Or do you think organically in terms of self-organizing systems?

I find it helps to image a tree. If you put the right seed in the ground it will grow by itself without much more than a bit of looking after. The senior pastor/minister might be thought of as the thick bit (no pun intended!) close to the ground. The tree grows organically branching in ever decreasing scales but with each instance of branching self-similar to the others. Church leaders (and each church defines this for itself) can behave like venture capitalists if they consciously set out to craft a system that grows by itself so it can handle all the people and the problems they bring with them.

If you decide to relinquish engineering control to organic growth, you will not want also to relinquish your responsibility. Therefore, a feedback and monitoring system must be built in. Feedback will enable the system to be tweaked from time to time as success and failure (used merismusly! merismusMERISMUS

An ancient Sumerian literary device by which a continuum is described poetically by its end points. As in Genesis: "the evening and the morning were the first day". Merismus has come down to us and today we can see it in our traditional wedding vows - "in sickness and in health"; "for richer, for poorer".

And to complete the meaning, we should probably add "and everything in between".

) information is pro-actively garnered through the monitoring. Monitoring is essential. You will still have an organizational chart with staff and volunteers and each of them will have their own self-similar branches to monitor. Monitoring should be pastoral care monitoring and it might help to do it a bit like Hewlett Packard's 'management by wandering around' method. This eliminates the old fashioned aqcross-the-desk 'naughty schoolboy' talk and instead is done on the home turf of the person concerned.

Monitoring, then, ensures the pastoral care of each person at a branching point and gathers feedback and suggestions as well. As an additional benefit accruing to an intelligent church, managed feedback permits a church to manage change. Change management know-how should definitely be in an intelligent church's toolbox because change is what Christians are all about.