This week I was in Atlanta at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) among other church staff from around the country that are focused on church planting. One of our tasks was to develop a list of standards we would propose to insure that church planters conform with NAMB or SBC values. Ideas included affirmation of doctrinal statements, going through courses with certain training elements, or submitting to tightly defined accountability systems.
At the same time we developed a list of qualities of effective church planters. Church planters should be creative, self-starters, who can inspire groups toward a vision, and able to develop individual believers.
Do you see a problem? The organization’s standards simultaneously require two contrasting kinds of people. One kind of person is a rule keeping, compliant person who is careful to fill out report forms on time, enjoy attending accountability meetings with a designated accountability partner, and risk any decision that could possibly be contrary to the wishes of a far away organizational structure. The other is a focused, maverick that has the ability to innovate and change while running fast and at the same time bring others along with him.
The danger of some large organizations is that they often design structures that assume that most of its leaders cannot be trusted to make even basic decisions and are in need of tight policies to help them. These policies attempt to anticipate any situation in the future and set general guidelines that apply to every situation. As time goes on, the real leaders who are so stifled by this system leave the organization and the kind of leaders that are left are those who feel most secure when others make decisions for them. Because this causes the overall quality of leaders to decline, directors of the organization write more rules to cover more situations and the cycle continues.
The goal of organizational leadership is not to develop idiot-proof policies and airtight accountability systems. The key is recruiting the best leaders and giving them as much freedom as possible. This requires organizational leaders to do a better job in selecting leaders, communicating more frequently, and when necessary removing leaders that are not working out. The problem is that organizational leaders are often selected because they are most comfortable in a tight policy environment. For an organization’s survival, this cycle must be broken.
The goal of organizational leadership is to recruit and place the best leaders in positions where they have freedom to use their gifting to accomplish overall organizational goals. This may feel risky to organizational leaders, but the greater risk is creating an organization that repels the best leaders and attracts people who do not have the ability or courage to take the organization to the next level.