Organicization

While “organicization” is a made-up word, I’ve decided that it perfectly encapsulates what a healthy ministry looks like.  I’ve noticed that there are predominantly 2 approaches ministry leaders such as Yours Truly have when it comes to forward motion in their ministry context: There’s the “if you build it they will come” and the “Let go, and let God” approach.  In a nutshell, the first one is quite literally a “Let’s organize the hell out of this thing” and the second one is a “Let’s have zero structure and leave every detail up to whatever God’s Spirit wants to do; as humans, we’re hands-off and simply along for the ride”.

And just so I’m not unclear: neither of these by themselves are right.  Or biblical.  Or healthy.  And they certainly don’t emulate either Jesus’ example or the picture of the early Church.  (Consider Luke 10:1 and Acts 6:1-8)

If you’re in ministry, be it full-time, part-time, or even on a volunteer basis you’ve more than likely sensed an unspoken (or even written in black-and-white) pressure for forward motion.  This is especially true if you’re a paid ministry leader.  Essentially the human logic goes something like this: We need a job done, let’s hire a person to do the job, and let’s expect them to produce results.  There is not one thing wrong with this line of thinking; either in the corporate/secular workplace, or in the ministry workplace.  As far as I can tell, the Bible has no opposition to paid ministry positions.  The apostle Paul spoke about this on several occasions.  (1 Timothy 5:18)

However, what I’d like to dive into are the two mindsets I’ve found that dominate our ministry “philosophies” so to speak.  In the interest of being succinct, we’ll call these 2 approaches the “organized” approach and the “organic” approach.

The organized approach thrives on policy, procedures, handbooks, rules, protocol, charts, graphs, numbers, and a bunch of other measurable indicators.  The organized approach is generally cut and dried on “Apply A to B, and you get C.”  Not that leaders with this approach are strictly relying on simple math or that they don’t care about people, but most every situation is met with a structure, equation, or policy in order to see a solution or progression.  Taken to the extreme, the organized approach lacks a heart and puts policy over people.

The organic approach holds very loosely to any sense of organization.  The organic approach thrives on spontaneity, brainstorming, consensus, fluidity, turn-on-a-dime directional shifts, and just letting things unfold “naturally”.  The organic approach leans more toward a “if God wills”… people will come, souls will receive Jesus, discipleship will happen, Christians will grow to reach out to those around them; all with a sense of undefinable directionlessness.  Those leaders who employ this approach generally buck against goals, stats, or measurable indicators to actual growth.  Taken to the extreme, the organic approach lacks accountability and is perfectly okay with having no rails to run on.

Whichever way you happen to lean, there are pitfalls of perception found in both.  A leader in love with charts can be perceived as uncaring to the people he/she is leading.  A leader in love with the grassroots can be perceived as lacking confidence, direction, and can even be seen as incompetent.  A leader who loves organization takes the next hill whether anyone follows or not.  A leader who loves organic growth wants to feel good about the next hill and those who may or may not want to take that hill.

Being a leader of organicization (as you’ve probably guessed by now) means being mindful that both approaches have their worth and that both approaches need to be engaged.  I’ve found that people who don’t know their defined role can be as harmful to progress as people who are mavericks when it comes to the overall mission.  This is where “job descriptions” are helpful, without being so constraining that they choke the person’s creativity and offer very little room for enhancement.

Being a leader of organicization means that you have one ear to the chest of God, listening to His heartbeat, while having the other ear listening to the pulse of those you are charged to lead.  Few things are more discouraging to a people being led than the sensation that their leader is out of touch with where they are.

Being a leader of organicization means that when a shift if called for, you don’t first consult the policy handbook to see when the next vote is being taken so as to make a change to the organization’s bylaws.  You carefully and prayerfully consider the options and faithfully move in the new direction; even if you’re in mid-stream.  Being willing to make shifts based on the needs of those you’re leading shows that you are flexible and in tune not just with the direction, but with those being directed.

Being a leader of organicization puts you behind the desk and away from the desk proportionately.  My default position is in my office chair, I’ll admit it.  And whether you even have an office, a desk, or a chair is irrelevant.  Leaning too far toward over-organizing means we’re looking at a screen more than at the faces of those we’re leading.  As such, emails, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, and *gulp* even blogs can be a great vehicle for destructive passive-aggressive leadership behavior.

There’s more to say, but I’m going to stop here.

I’ve been known for long(ish) blog posts, so I’ll stop here and turn it over to you:

  • If you’re a leader, in what other areas can you improve your “organicization”?  
  • If you’re being led, what do you see in your leader that you feel needs to be addressed along the lines of organicization?
*Here’s the actual doodling I did a couple years ago when I first began kicking this around…
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