The Big 10 for personal and organisational development

I am passionate about personal development and growth, and it never ceases to surprise me how the same personal growth principles apply to organisational development. Organisations are human systems, so it makes sense that this would be the case.

We are built as human beings to grow and develop. We feel fully alive when we learn and grow, even when growing involves inevitable pain. It makes life meaningful. To not grow and develop is to feel flat and uncommitted. The same is true of any organisation: for profit or non-profit.

In my reading and study of growth and development I came across three essential systems that made a world of sense to me: 3 major questions from Simon Sinek, 3 functions of the brain from Dr. Henry Cloud, and 4 core skills from Dr. Scott Peck. These form the Big 10 for personal and organisational development. Here they are, in a brief overview through my own lens:

– Three Questions: Why, What, How

1. Why?

This is where it all starts, according to Simon Sinek. We have to start with figuring out why we are doing what we are doing. This is true of individuals, and of organisations. The why is related to the most basic values and beliefs that govern who are we as individuals and organisations. This is also something we keep having to go back to, evaluate and ask questions individually and as a collective. It has to be clear what our purpose and goals are. In the words of Simon Sinek “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Clarity is paramount here, as is the need to keep going back to the question. As a human being, what do you believe in? What is your purpose in life? As an organisation, what are the common values and beliefs that define you? What is the company about? And: do all members own it, or is it shared across the board? Continue reading

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Worship – a collaborative responsibility

For the last few weeks public worship has been very much on my mind. As a minister responsible for leading worship every Sunday it is good to take time occasionally to think about the meaning and practice of worship.

If we were to widen the reflective circle and have a public discussion about the experience of worship, what would we be talking about? As I was sharing with some members of the Mission & Discipleship Council during last week’s Conference, a discussion on what we want, we like or dislike in worship is bound to get stuck, unless we are able to go beyond these issues.

Preferences are important, and we should discuss them, but there is a danger in setting any discussion on these terms alone, lest we end up fostering consumerism. A long discussion about what kind of music we like, or what kind of structure we like is likely to run into difficulties. The symptoms of such a narrow perspective is reflected in what people sometimes say about worship: “I didn’t get anything out of worship today”, “I didn’t like that hymn”, or a more positive “The minister did well today.” These reflections are more reflections of consumers than participants. Continue reading

Before change, letting go

We all know “people don’t like change”. Of course they don’t. I don’t like it either. Change causes stress and it feels like an extra burden, because it often is. Organisations should really stop talking about change as a starting point. Something else needs to happen first.

Change basically means adding something new to what is already there. Since both individuals and organisations live and function by using 100% or more of the resources available to them, adding something new on top of already stretched resources is bound to cause resistance and headaches. It is bound to fail even when the change is good and necessary.

I believe the first step should be to assess what is currently not working and needs to stop. Before change can happen, before new things can be added, old things must be ended. This applies to individuals and to organisations: if you want to do something new, you have to first decide what you are willing to stop doing. After the space is created and resources thus become available, only then something new can be added.

One should not underestimate the difficulty of stopping old things that aren’t working anymore. Human beings and organisations have a bad habit of confusing hope for wishful thinking, as Dr. Henry Cloud aptly points out in his fantastic book “Necessary Endings”. Ending old things can be very hard, but without this essential step, any new thing will fail.

 

A new church? Embracing diversity

After my article on “The Future of Victorian Worship,” I decided to go into more depth regarding the three underlying values (conformity, compliance and standardisation), but this time looking at them from the point of view of new ways of being church, rather than just new ways of doing worship. This is first of three articles to come on this subject. The next two will be tackling the issue of stimulating the imagination, and then encouraging creativity.

1. What we take for granted

If you grew up in the church – depending on the variety of contexts you were exposed to – you will probably have a set of ideas about church that you take for granted. For instance, you may take for granted that a church needs to have a building, a membership roll, a board of elders, a pastor, and of course a Sunday morning service where we sing songs, say prayers, and listen to a sermon. These are only some of the things we take for granted. All these things are important to keep in mind when we set out to imagine new forms of church. Continue reading

Article on ‘Fresh Expressions’

Here’s an article of mine published on the Fresh Expressions website:

“What’s at the heart of innovation?”

When we first decide to venture out in creating new expressions of church, the first question we usually ask is ‘how?’ But before we can ask the ‘how to’ question, I believe we need to ask the ‘where from’ question. What do we bring to the task of innovation? Where are we coming from or, more specifically, what are the underlying values that we are taking for granted? The underlying values are tied to our personal histories, to how we were brought up, how we were educated and nurtured, our previous and current experiences of church, and so on.

Read more…

The future of Victorian worship

For a time I was fascinated by traditional Presbyterian worship. There was just something majestic, dignified and deliciously predictable about it. That fascination slowly wore off, and for a time I could not tell why that was, and I found that troubling. I’m referring to the kind of Reformed Presbyterian worship on a typical Sunday morning in a 19th century traditional stone building, with uncomfortable pews, strange smell, pipe organs, massive communion table, elevated pulpit and sometimes a choir.

Coming from an Eastern European context where order is an exotic word, this type of worship was like a magnet to me. It is beautiful and dignified. It has a lot going for it. If I were to build a new form of worship, that’s where I would probably start. But it is not where I would end up. Not anymore.

It took me awhile to figure out why it just failed to satisfy. It just wasn’t buzzing for me anymore. What I initially regarded as different and refreshing soon became restrictive and oppressive. Trying to tinker with it as a minister lead to backlashes that shocked and disturbed me. That also contributed to my disenchantment. Continue reading

Make me a seer

Make me a seer! Not the kind that sees the future, but kind that sees the present. One that really sees the present. One that sees under the surface of politics, niceness, neatness, coverups, the games people play, the games I play, the things people say that they don’t really mean, the things I say that I don’t really mean, the discrepancy between the saying and the doing etc.

Is this not the primary role of the spiritual leader in a community? Is this not the source of all spiritual leadership? Is it not true that without seeing the spiritual leader becomes a mere religious functionary? What else does ‘the blind leading the blind’ mean? To me, it suggests that seeing is kind of a big deal for a leader! (It also suggests why we don’t want to do that very much: once you see, you can’t un-see.)

Of course I’m not talking about merely engaging your visual cortex. That should be obvious from the first paragraph. It is also about seeing with your ears, with your heart, with your hands, with your mind, with your whole body. It’s really about wholeness, which is actually the goal of Christian spirituality. Or so it should be. It is about integration.

Continue reading