What I’m Learning Outside the Church Bubble: Day Three
By Jan Edmiston, DMin ’01 and Co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
April 9, 2015—This is the third of a three-part series by popular blogger and Columbia Theological Seminary graduate Jan Edmiston. (See the first here, and see the second here.) In this series, she examines different ways the Church can utilize secular business practices and principles in the “business” of running a church. In this post, she looks at the connection between organizational efficiency and spiritual effectiveness. The two are more connected than many realize!
On Wednesday we learned about partnerships.
I’ve become a big fan of the Kellogg School’s Non-Profit Management program which is very faith-friendly while also expanding our Churchy horizons. I strongly recommend that you check them out.
Kellogg’s School of Management has partnered with the non-profit community via this program in a way that models how our congregations might also partner with business, government, and other organizations to form multi-party coalitions serving common causes. In the congregation I once served, our church (via a 501c3) partnered with state and local government entities and international and local businesses to create a computer training program that – by the time I left – had equipped over 800 adults in computer skills. That, my friends, is an effective partnership.
Working with our individual staff and officers of a particular congregation involves constant negotiation, coalition building, and team development. Here are the tips of the day:
- It’s easier to be collaborative when there are lots of resources. But when resources are limited (or perceived to be limited), anxieties make us less collaborative and more individualistic. This is when a strong spiritual leader can step in and remind the team of their spiritual resources.
- It’s impossible to be a strong staff or body of officers without trust. Transparency and clear communication bolster trust levels.
- Partnering detail people with vision people is a good idea. Vision people can learn to pay closer attention to details and detail people can be coached to expand their vision, but it’s not their gift and it will exhaust them. Appreciating the gifts of and partnering with people who are our opposites is holy work.
- Clarify the group’s goals. It’s possible that half of us have the goal of spiritually feeding the people within our walls and the other half of us aspire to reach out to spiritually feed the people outside our walls. Let’s not assume we all have the same institutional goals. We need to talk about it together.
- Negotiations are not just about money. We negotiate at every meeting we attend about everything from agendas and priorities to procedures and calendars.
I’ve often felt allergic to business practices in church and I’ll admit that I’m still wary in some cases. But we in the Church need to hone our skills in leading meetings and understanding finances and training volunteers. It’s urgent that we are organizationally efficient so that we can be spiritually effective.
This is the final installment of Edmiston’s three-part series, but be sure to check out parts 1 and 2. And if you missed “When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can Bring In Young Families” you can read it HERE.
Jan Edmiston is co-moderator with T. Denise Anderson of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) She has also served as associate executive presbyter for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, starting in 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.
And when you need to re-enter the church bubble, the Center for Lifelong Learning offers courses on preaching and teaching for those in the pulpit and those in the pew. Visit our course list HERE to learn more about our classes.