Sunday, September 28, 2008

Drinking the Kool-aid

Like most of my academic colleagues, I tend to be skeptical of business culture. But I've had some opportunities over the past year to take part in a few meetings and retreats focused on business-style vision definition and mission discernment. And they've been surprisingly helpful in moving beyond what the various organizations do -- their traditions and programs -- and toward who they are.

This week the members of my church's vestry read a book about the missions of congregations. And again, I turn out to be a bigger fan of such discussion than I could have predicted ahead of time. Maybe it's because in the final analysis, talking about organizational goals and dynamics is meta-talk, and I've always been fascinated by the meta.

Here are a couple of the ideas in the book (Behold I Do A New Thing: Transforming Communities Of Faith by Kirk Hadaway) that I'm going to keep in mind:
  • Even though we tend to focus on definite, measurable goals, there are such things as diffuse, intangible goals -- and they can be legitimate. A church's goal is transforming people, for example, and the outcome of that goal can't be defined in advance.
  • Just because a need exists in your population, that doesn't mean it's your organization's job to address it. Distinct organizations can recognize the intersection between their mission and the needs of their members.

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