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Leadership Training with Gil Rendle

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a learning/training day with Gil Rendle, part of a training for leaders as United Methodists in most of New York State prepare to become one annual conference instead of four this July. I found Rendle's presentation to be very thought-provoking, churning thoughts not only on what we will do as a new annual conference, but what we do/can do in my local church.

Here are some notes and my comments mixed, hope you can decipher!:

Rendle notes that our UM membership has been declining for 40 years. We've been in the wilderness for 40 years, but in the wilderness, God can bring about change. We can manage incremental change - we can handle that because we can control it. But deep change - we can't control deep change, and deep change is what we need.

He talked about Friedman and family systems and the idea that "we've grossly overrated the power of information to change people with no motivation to change." That's pretty applicable in all areas of life, don't you think? I can't help but think of my favorite line from Tracy Chapman's "Change" - "If everything you think you know makes your life unbearable, would you change?" What is our motivation for changing the way we do church?

He points to CEUs as one system that was implemented to 'fix people' - 'If we only had better leaders' - just make them get more education, and the churches will be fixed... He says, "I was not trained to make disciples, I was trained to make members," of his own training for ministry, noting how we're set up to fail at our own mission of disciple-making.

He says that when "things are getting out of control, the natural response is to make more rules." But good leadership is: Not about doing things right, but about doing right things. I think we've particularly been struggling with this in my local church - are we trying to do things right or do right things?

Management satisfies. Leadership (well done appropriately) dissatisfies. That’s how you affect change. Unless we are dissatisfying, church will not change.

North American Hospitality: Fix things up just the way we like them, invite people in, and are happy until they want to change the channel. That's not biblical hospitality, radical hospitality.

Technical work – known solutions to known problems.

Adaptive work – can’t do technical. You don’t more to action. You move to learning. Have to learn to act. Deep work.

He said, "Who are we? What are we supposed to do? We think we already know the answer. But we know who we were, not who we are." In my first congregation, we once did a project as part of our stewardship campaign that asked people to identify the 'visionaries' within the congregation. To name people. And the congregation did - but it named mostly people who had died in the past years. They knew who they were in the past, but not their current identity.

Rendle says we are asked for leadership, but only rewarded for management in our systems. After all, asking the ‘why’ questions translates into a longer meeting! Whenever the system doesn’t know what to do, it does what it knows.

"Pastoral mode is one of our default modes – tries to manage everyone’s feelings, care for everyone." This is a big one for me personally. I have a very hard time not trying to make sure everyone is getting along and feeling ok. It's hard to say: I'm sorry you're not with the change that is taking place," and then just move on. I'm learning! Rendle notes that not all the Israelites make the journey out of the wilderness.

Church metaphor we love/live by (but is obviously bad): We have to learn how to build a new prison, using the bricks from the old prison, without losing any of the prisoners.

How do we prepare leaders for congregations we haven’t yet met, when we still require conformity of leaders?

The system get whatever it measures. How much, how many, how often measures. In absence of measures, get the same as before, or chaos. Have to measure something, but we’re using faulty measures. At the same time, you can't just have no measures. If you don't like the ones in place, alright, then what *do* you want to be measured on?

Our stated desired outcome: Improved relationship with Christ, enabling change in the world.

But: If you can’t measure output, you’ll measure input. (i.e. "I worked x hours." Not bragging. Just trying to show what we put *in* to system since we don’t know what we're getting out. And we feel we've never gotten enough inputs.)

Long established organizations have 2 missions: Public – what you say you do. Private – what you actually work on. The Private is always the satisfaction of the strongest constituent voices. School: Public – educate children. Private – satisfy parents, teachers, administrators. Students don’t make list.

Church: Public – making disciples. Private – satisfy clergy, congregations, interest groups. Disciples don’t make list.

Was: Whether clergy and congregations were happy.

Takes us from output position, buts us into input positions. We’re expendable resources. Can’t be deployed for our satisfaction but for the church’s mission.

When a system doesn’t know what went wrong, it wants to know who went wrong.

If you go at your work at a technical level, you might get all your tasks done, but it won’t matter.

When a paradigm shifts, everything has to go back to zero. Look for the purpose sentence in Discipline, and stop reading.


Anonymous said…
I like the new look, Beth.

"we've grossly overrated the power of information to change people with no motivation to change."

That's a central theme of Gershon's "Social Change 2.0," which I read not long ago (and which lead to the start of the eco-team). Yes, applicable to lots of things.
Beth Quick said…
Thanks! The 'blogger in draft' allows you to make more changes to how your blog looks. Yes, so the big question is, where does the motivation come from? I mean, most of the time it seems self-explanatory, if you are convinced already of the need to change, but, apparently, there's a missing piece. I mean, think of it with dieting, even. There should be so much motivation to change - health, societal pressure, enjoyment of activities - and yet we just don't do it. So apparently, that's not *actually* motivating.

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