Organisational Health

Patrick Lencioni‘s book is entitled, ‘The Advantage.’ He maintains that all organisations have access to the ‘classic fundamentals’ like strategy, marketing, finance and technology. Such qualities are available to any organisation that takes the time and trouble to discover them. Many courses are available, many books have been written, many websites (with free information) are out there, to help any person learn and implement these organisational needs. And many experts can be found who will guide an organisation through these processes.

Lencioni begins his book with this paragraph: “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organisational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.”

By organisation, Lencioni means any kind of human enterprise – business, school, hospital, church, family, non-profit – anything where people work together to achieve any purpose.

This endorses exactly what Christian Schwarz says in his book, ‘Natural Church Development,’ and subtitled, ‘A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches.’

Might health be the issue for the organisation that is your church?

At a workshop, Jim Collins (‘How the Mighty Fall’) had one of the participants ask: “How would you know if our organisation is doing well? When you are on top, most powerful and successful, everything looks fine, your very success might cover up the fact that you’re already on the path to decline. Outwardly, it looks to be doing fine. But how would you know?” It’s a great question.

We see it in some of the ailments that affect physical health. On the outside, everything is good; a person feels really good; but how many people have been astounded when their doctor tells them they have a terminal illness?

How is your church doing? And how do you know? Really?

Would early 2019 be a good time to do a church health assessment?

And if you have done a church health assessment some time ago, would this be an appropriate time to see if all the plans and prayers and payments have served to improve the health of your church?

If you are interested, please contact me.

God bless you

How do we know if a quality is a principle or not?

Covey says a quick rule of thumb for testing if a quality is a universal, unchanging and unchangeable principle, we should try to imagine living in a world where the opposite is the rule and practice. For example, what would it be like working for a company (or being part of a family) where everyone wanted to control, rather than empower, each other? And what about being in a team (or a relationship) where nobody cared?

He says:

“Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They are fundamental. They’re essentially unarguable because they are self-evident. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites. I doubt that anyone would seriously consider unfairness, deceit, baseness, uselessness, mediocrity or degeneration to be a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success.” (‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ page 35)

Christian Schwarz has a clear definition of the term, principle: “A principle-oriented approach to church development fulfils the following four criteria:

  1. Principles are universally valid. They don’t apply only to certain situations or specific circumstances. They apply to all denominations, to all church models, to all devotional styles, and to all cultures.
  2. Principles must be proven. Until we have clear empirical proof, we may be dealing with an interesting concept that is worth consideration, but we shouldn’t speak about it as a principle. There is only one way to find out whether or not a specific feature is a universal principle: research on a universal (worldwide) scale.
  3. Principles always deal with what is essential, never with secondary aspects of the Christian life. Therefore, we can expect to find the principles that influence our lives also described in the Bible, even if the terminology is different.
  4. Principles always have to be individualized. They never tell you exactly what to do. Rather, they give you criteria that enable you to discover what should be done in a given situation (‘Color Your World with Natural Church Development,’ page 19).

Jim Collins had just finished presenting to a group of internet executives when he was asked: “Will your finding continue to apply in the new economy? Don’t we need to throw out all the old ideas and start from scratch?”

Collins answered, “Yes, the world is changing, and will continue to do so. But that does not mean we should stop the search for timeless principles. Think of it this way: While the practices of engineering continually evolve and change, the laws of physics remain relatively fixed. I like to think of our work as a search for timeless principles – the enduring physics of great organisations – that will remain true and relevant no matter how the world changes around us. Yes, the specific application will change (the engineering), but certain immutable laws of organized human performance (the physics) will endure.”[1]

Which are those things that are timeless? They are the qualities we should pay attention to!

[1] “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, pp.14, 15

Principles in Organisations

Principles in Organisations

In any discussion about the way organisations function, including churches, someone will invariably make reference to principles.

Stephen Covey writes about the ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ and labels them ‘principles.’ By the title of his book Covey is saying these principles are so important to one’s effectiveness as a human being, they should be absorbed into one’s life as habits

Christian Schwarz identifies ‘eight quality characteristics of healthy churches,’ and ‘six growth forces’ in the natural world, and says they are principles. Schwarz has entitled one of his books, ‘Color Your World with Natural Church Development.’ He seems to be implying that the principles of Natural Church Development are not restricted to the church but apply across the board, to everything in the world we might engage with.

Jim Collins (Good to Great) describes the way a number of companies have transitioned from ‘good to great[1]’ – and Collins says any human enterprise can make the same journey, the ‘secret’ is not restricted to business – by means of paying careful attention to several principles uncovered by the thorough research project his team facilitated.

Warren Wiersbe said:

“About the only thing I remember from one of my courses at seminary is a bit of doggerel that the weary professor dropped into a boring lecture:

Methods are many, Principles are few.

Methods always change, Principles never do.

As soon as I returned to my dormitory room I looked up “principle” in my dictionary and found it meant “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption.” I read further and discovered that the word comes from the Latin principium which means “beginning.” I learned something from that definition that has helped to deepen and direct my ministry for many years: if I go back to beginnings and build on principles, I will always be up-to-date and in step with what God is doing.”

The church health assessment developed by Christian Schwarz can help you to discover the alignment between your church and the principles that are described in God’s Word (Natural Church Development – although different words may be used in the Bible, the meaning can be understood to be the same) and woven into His creation (Natural Church Development).

Please contact me if you would like more information.

[1] Collins defines ‘great’ in the book, ‘Good to Great,’ page 3

Decisions

Decisions. Everyone is always being faced with making a decision of some kind, conscious or unconscious (a behaviour that has become a habit, so we don’t have to think about it anymore); during the course of a day, we will have to make hundreds of decisions. And remember, to decide to make no decision is still a decision.

When we put together all the decisions made by humans down through history, we come up with a world that looks exactly what we experience here today.

So what kind of decision-maker are you?

How do you use the time, treasure and talent you have at your disposal?

Are you making things better?

Or are you contributing to the world’s burden?

 Ella Wilcox said it better than I ever could.

She said,
There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people no more I say.
Not the good or the bad, for its well understood,
The good are half bad, the bad are half good.

Not the happy or sad, for in the swift-flying years,
Bring each man his laughter, each man his tears.
Not the rich or the poor, for to count a man’s wealth,
You must know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life’s busy span,
Who puts on vain airs is not counted a man.
No! The two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, the people who lean.

Wherever you go you’ll find the world’s masses
Are ever divided into these two classes.
And, strangely enough, you will find, too, I mean,
There is only one lifter to twenty who lean.

In which class are you? Are you easing the load
Of the overtaxed lifters who toiled down the road?
Or are you a leaner who lets others bear,
Your portion of worry and labour and care?

Want to find out more?

Why not go to: https://3colorworld.org/en/etests/stewardship/summary/about

And do the test?

You run the risk of finding more out about yourself than you really want to know!

Bless you as you seek to be the best you can for God and his people.

Ignoring the Principles?

God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. (Proverbs 28:9 (NLT))

Which law is the Preacher referring to? Is it the law that governs all of creation, the law that God has woven into everything He has made, the principles that Christian Schwarz and Stephen Covey and Andy Stanley – and many others – write about? Principles that are unchanging and unchangeable and self-evident (when you really think about them)?

God detests such prayers because they are prayers He cannot answer the way the pray-ers are wanting Him to answer. Such requests are like a person who sows carrot seed in the garden, and then prays that God will cause parsnips to grow!

What can God do with a prayer like that?

Does this have anything to say about giving thanks before eating food we like rather than food that is good for us?

The whole idea here is that we are praying to God for things that, if He were to answer by approving our requests, would cause the whole creation to fall apart; prayers that God simply cannot answer, prayers He detests because if He were to answer the way we want Him to, He would be denying Himself, acting in opposition to His own nature.

Are some of our prayers for evangelism and church growth like that, that is to say, God cannot answer them because He would be denying His character?

What do you think?

Does Natural Church Development Work?

Having read your article, I would be interested to hear of any congregations that have done this assessment and made changes, and what difference it has made to the effectiveness of their ministry!

A good question.

In his book, ‘Color Your World with Natural Church Development,’ Christian Schwarz writes:

“Recently we selected all of the churches that have done three NCD Surveys and compared their initial numbers (at the time of their first survey) with their most recent results (at the time of their third survey, which was completed, on average, 31 months later). At the time of the third survey, the quality of these churches had increased by an average of 6 points. [These numbers] indicate considerably more love, more forgiveness, more answers to prayer, more wisdom, more spiritual power, and countless other quality factors in those churches. Great. But what about the quantity? Did the focus on church quality actually result in numerical growth, as NCD claims it does? Here are the results. By the time of the third survey the average growth rate of all participating churches had increased by 51%. If a church had been growing at a rate of 10 people per year before beginning the process, 31 months into the process, that number had grown to 15 people per year; if there had been 200 people per year joining the church previously, now there were 302.”

I have a congregation in this country that, in 2012, had an attendance at worship of 120. Four years later that number had climbed to 830. The NCD assessment revealed a remarkable, above average, level of church health. Was this because of the NCD process? Perhaps. Or was it because the responsible people knew intuitively how to lead a church to higher levels of health? We cannot make claims that we cannot substantiate. All we can say for sure is that improvement in quality coincided with increase in quantity.

My recommendation to any church is: If you don’t seem to be increasing quantitative numbers, then change your tack and work on improving the numbers that relate to quality. If you want to know more, contact me.

What is Reality?

The wife of a missionary couple serving in PNG became ill and was treated for malaria – given quinine. She did not respond to the treatment as expected and was taken to a clinic where the medical resources were somewhat better than the local situation. It was discovered she was suffering from bronchitis! She did not have malaria – which she was being treated for – and the quinine was slowly killing her. It was the wrong treatment for what was ailing her. Could it be this is happening in some of our churches? They are being treated for an illness which they do not have; the treatment is not improving them and, in some cases is making them even sicker. We need to be sure the measures we are taking to improve our churches are the measures they really do need at this point in their life.

If you have been lost in an unfamiliar city (without a map or a GPS), but have managed to make phone contact with one who knows their way round, they will always ask one question: ‘Where are you now?’ Until they know where we are, they cannot tell us how to get where we want to go.

One of the axioms Bill Hybels advocates is Facts are your Friends. In his book, Axiom, he tells about a pastor who didn’t like the ‘facts’ and, partway through a planning session, asked Bill to leave. Jim Collins (Good to Great) discovered that a characteristic of leaders who took their companies from Good to Great was they faced the truth. He says, “All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.” Max DePree said the task of a leader is to define reality. Whatever field we are operating in, we need to know exactly where we are before we can get to where we want to go.

The Natural Church Development church heath assessment can help church leaders discover the facts of their current reality in order to know where they are starting from.

If you want to know more about Natural Church Development please contact me.

NCD: A Common Denominator

There was a time when going to church was a bit like going to MacDonald’s; that is, you could predict what the experience would be like.

Not anymore.

Very few churches are the same today, even when they are from the same denomination (stream) and have the same label.

One reason for this is that church hierarchy have encouraged their pastors to shape the local church to fit the community where that church is located. The idea seems to make sense, but there is one very large hitch. Pastors, like all human beings, do not come without bias. They are not able to shape anything without putting their own personal stamp on it. Even our perception of God is biased! When a pastor seeks to fit the church to the community, (s)he also unintentionally (or intentionally) shapes the church to fit him- or her-self.

Another reason the worship experience from church to church is so different these days, could be that many of them have removed denominational labels and named themselves simply ‘Anytown’ Community Church.

Local churches are becoming more individualistic (the truth is, like siblings, they always have been different – unique – even when they looked similar), looking different from one another. Comparing churches these days is like comparing apples and oranges; they appear to be so different.

Is there any way we can find common ground between churches that appear so different?

Yes, there is a way.

A church leader I know who had responsibility for the oversight of some twenty churches in his denomination, decided to invite them all to complete a Natural Church Development church health assessment. The great value for him was that in each church’s regular review he now had a measure that was common to them all no matter the size of the church; no matter how many (or how few) programs the church was running; no matter what leaders and/or pastors said about their church; no matter what kind of worship team, or music (even untuneful – make a joyful noise) or other components of the worship experience.

Natural Church Development (NCD) takes us to bedrock, to what is essential in any church.

·       Empowering Leadership

·       Gift-based Ministry

·       Passionate Spirituality

·       Effective Structures

·       Inspiring Worship Service

·       Holistic Small Groups

·       Need-oriented Evangelism

·       Loving Relationships

These are like the vital organs of a human being; it is difficult to go on living if someone removes one of our vital organs. And a group could scarcely be a church if any one of these is missing.

The good news for our leader who asked his church to complete the health assessment was they all registered a score in all eight qualities. The not so good news was that some were quite low. But that’s another story.

Natural Church Development Principles: Symbiosis

The Preacher says: “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2 NLT)

The ancient Greeks believed this, and so did the Preacher. Stephen Covey says that pride is the great barrier to Synergy or symbiosis. He gives this example: “The synergy mentality short-circuits conflict in the workplace, and the resulting spark of genius can be dazzling. But synergy does not come cheap, and the forces working against it are formidable. The toughest barrier to synergy is pride. It’s the great insulator that prevents the creative blending of human energies.

There is a whole continuum of pride, from the familiar “NIH Syndrome” (“If it’s Not Invented Here, it can’t be worth anything”) all the way to the hubris that leads to the downfall of people, organizations, and nations.

The ancient Greeks taught that hubris, or extreme arrogance, was the worst of crimes. In those days, a soldier who boasted of his own strength and humiliated his enemies was guilty of hubris. So was a king who abused his subjects for his personal gain. The Greeks believed that hubris would bring on nemesis, or inevitable ruin. Hubris, they said, always leads to tragedy in the end—and they were right.

Today we’ve seen the collapse of some of our most trusted institutions because of hubris at the highest levels. In the financial debacle of 2008, many key leaders were guilty of everything from blind overconfidence to outright fraud.

The main symptom of hubris is a lack of conflict. If no one dares to challenge you, if you receive little input from others, if you find yourself talking more than listening, if you’re too busy to deal with those who disagree then you’re heading for a fall. An example is the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

According to reports, this man “brooked no criticism. . . . Every morning his immediate circle took part in a meeting where on occasions executives could he reprimanded seriously.” He referred to his unfriendly acquisitions as mercy killings. The Times of London called his leadership “hubristic.” Thus he was isolated from the truth about the oncoming banking crisis, for which his aggressively risky business dealings were said to be partly responsible

In 2007 his bank was worth £75 billion; by 2009 it was worth £4.5 billion and had suffered “the biggest loss in British banking history.”’

Looking at another example, it’s probable that the anti-synergy mind-set at Enron brought that company down. Observers see in Enron the classic model of a hubristic culture: “This was a company that purposely shut down alternative and conflicting views of reality to protect the status quo. In the name of preserving success and being in hard-nosed pursuit of greatness, an inflexible, intolerant culture developed in which new ideas were ignored, concerns were dismissed, and critical thinking got you fired.” (Covey, ‘The 3rd Alternative’)

The Preacher was so convinced of the folly of pride that he states categorically that it leads to disgrace, period. And he states it publicly as an axiom, a life principle, as though there is no escaping the disgrace that pride will bring in the end. Pride makes us think we’re better than we are. Pride prevents us from listening to the opinions of others as being valid perspectives in any given situation. Pride makes us think we know best. Pride prevents us from understanding that we, too, have blind spots, and that we need others to help us understand the whole picture.

Change and Natural Church Development

The church is just over twenty years old. It’s a suburban church. It was planted with the intention of providing a worship experience that would appeal to the unchurched of the suburb. One might suppose that would be the purpose of every church, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The pastors – a married couple – and their team worked well together. The church was established and built around the gifting of the pastors. It reached a peak attendance of just over 250 in the Sunday morning service.

Since the founding pastors moved on eight years ago, there have been three changes of pastor couples (with another taking up the challenge early 2017).

The last two sets of pastor were there for three years each – the last six years. And it was six years ago the church decided to engage with the Natural Church Development health assessment. They were somewhat disappointed to get this result:

Taken by itself, this is an encouraging result. But this church and the pastors were disappointed. They were especially disappointed because the church had a reputation for great worship. They were also disappointed because the pastor’s previous church had been healthier.

Five years, five surveys and a change of pastors, and all their efforts, and not much else has changed (although the level of frustration has risen!).

All six surveys have shown the same pattern – Minimum Factor: Inspiring Worship Service. Maximum Factor: Holistic Small Groups. Visitors to this church love the worship; why have the most influential lay people responded to the NCD health test so that it consistently showed this result?

At the beginning this church demonstrated so much promise.

What might be the trouble?