• How Things Work
Hitting your finger, instead of the nail, is a painful way to learn How Things Work. Hitting the nail on the head takes some practice and a steady stroke.
A Systems Approach
The systems approach to How Things Work is helpful to understand here. If you take a rubber band around all your fingers and move one finger, the pressure is felt on the others. So what happens to one, somehow impacts the others in a system. When one member is sick in a family, it impacts them all. In a Staff, when one is not pulling their weight, that one might have an impact on the total ministry. In an Elder run church, decisions made at that level trickle down into the staff and congregation, whether it is a decisive or indecisive decision. Every church has a culture—“the way we do things here!” When you understood How Things Work, you have more permission to “work the system.”
Every church culture requires a leader who can understand How Things Work. Failure to do so could hurt a whole lot more than hammering your fingers. Learning to assess policies, procedures and protocols can help you get things done. Challenging the system on every hand can be laying the groundwork for your departure. Unfortunately, I have seen it happen.
Here are few things to watch for that might assess How Things Work in your Church.
1. Watch and Listen! You can learn a lot by observing and the keeping your ear to the ground. Do not interfere, if you perceive it to be privileged information. Don’t share it!
2. Ask Questions and Keep Confidential No one will trust you, if they feel you cannot keep information confidential. There is a time to gather information. You will learn more by being quiet about what you know. Teachable moments will come later.
3. Notice how decisions are made. Is there a pattern in the way decisions are made? Can anyone else make a decision, except the Pastor? “It’s your program, you decide, but check back with me first?” Do staff members have both trust and authority?
4. Observe how problems are solved. Are problems really solved or just handled temporarily? Are people processed well with the resolutions or details associated with outcomes?
5. Has there ever been any Church Discipline? How was that handled? Was there any opportunity for restoration or restitution? Were there any winners and losers? What was the role of forgiveness and grace?
6. How would you describe the Church’s state of health? Financial condition? Saying one thing—doing another? Are they involved in the community? Surviving? Flourishing? Any People Blindness here?
7. Is there a Program Priority? Some Programs are always funded first with no discussion? This program can dominate agendas and gets on the calendar first—it just goes without saying. Is it assumed?
8. Describe What Works in Writing. Writing down what works helps you to understand the pattern used for getting things done. Have you noticed any leveraging to get things done? Are there some “land mines” to avoid? Are there any “sacred” cows?
9. Observe how a New Idea Gains Momentum for Change in the System. Pastor goes to a conference and comes home with new program idea. Can you observe the implementation process with the staff and power structure? Where is the push back?
10. Good Ideas Are My Ideas! Bad Ideas Are Your Ideas! Is there consideration and respect for alternative thinking associated with problem solving? Can authority be challenged? Can anybody else be right? Does someone need the credit?
This is another reason why the Kidmin should not introduce too much change in the first year. Understanding How Things Work is vital to being able to affect the system in some permanent ways. Change should be deliberate, thoughtful and in small increments with plenty of time for “processing the troops.” Understanding How Things Work can help you make change work better and longer.