Lecture 16: Primary Handles, Part II

Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture

Lecture 16: Primary Handles, Part II

A. What we Measure

The fourth area is what we measure. This is descriptive and what it basically says is what we objectively observe is what becomes important to us. If you don’t want something to be important or to be valued, just stop measuring it. In my church in the bulletin are two pieces of information: the number of people present in the previous service and how much money came in. It is easy to measure those things, but that is what becomes important in terms of the church. It is not that those things are unimportant, but if we want other things to be important and valued, we need to find a way to observe them whether or not they are happening. We need to give an objective criterion whether it is actually taking place. Take for example integrity again, when we talk about integrity, we want integrity to be part of the church; we want spiritual maturity to be part of the church. These things are difficult to measure by any standard, but if we have figured out a way to objectively observe whether those things are happening or not, then we run the risk of defaulting to those things that we do measure when we are under pressure. That is the key point; and so you don’t have to measure it but neither should you expect it to hold up under pressure. As an example: I went to work for Transworld radio in November of 2000. At that point the organization was looking for leaders. In fact they had gone through a process of selecting their next CEO and because the choices were so limited from within the organization, the first mandate that the board gave the new president was to initiate a leadership development program within global Transworld Radio. I was the first person that the president elect hired to do that. In taking the job, I started to ask questions and got very few answers.

One of the key executives in Europe had heard a talk and wanted to start using the term servant leadership. So, what do we mean by this and I spent over a year working with people all over the world to identify its definition. We came up with seven key elements challenging the process and developing a shared vision. We developed a grid for understanding what this term meant. But we weren’t sure if that was what we needed; we now had a definition and perhaps people would now want to be this kind of leader. It didn’t happen. So, we were about two years into this process and still wondering what to do as I was still thinking about the phrase, ‘we are what we measure’ and ‘measure determines values.’ If you want it to be important you must have a way to objectively observe it. So, we began putting together a survey that was made up of forty-two statements. It took these seven elements we had developed for being a servant leader; I would call it a Christ centered leader today. So there were six statements and we began to unpack each of these seven elements. The statement was simply made and there was a scale from one to ten to use as a measurement. It wasn’t perfect as such but it was constantly improved on over the years. So, we begin to use this and eventually worked out a process where all of the leaders started to go through a process. Even though it was voluntary, it began to be used more and more. It was a multi-rater analysis tool of a 360 degree process where the leader that took it on with three or four others that would assess the leader. We would then unpack the results and explain it. When we objectified what it meant to be a servant-leader, one of the issues had to do with developing character. If you are going to develop character, you must be a person of character. What we begin to see in using this tool was the emphasis of the importance of servant leadership; this began to rise in the organization.

Today in Trans-World Radio, servant leadership is alive and well within that organization. The culture has shifted and it wasn’t just because of the measurement; there were other things that were going on as well. The fact that we figured out a way to measure whether or not it was actually happening raised the level of leadership. What we discovered in the research of leadership development was developing ways of measuring is an actual leadership development tool in and of itself. The process of measuring is very vital and particularly when we are under pressure.

Audience: Anything that you want to improve, just start paying attention to it and it will begin to be noticed. If our priority is to reach a certain goal with those who don’t know Christ, we need to have some sort of measurement to say that we are accomplishing it. If we are a culturally diverse congregation and yet all we see every week is a mono-culture; are we succeeding? How we measure what we say must be clear. Sometimes we get squeamish measuring things in church because it could be manipulated somehow. Are we cheating the system to bring up our numbers? Are we shallow because we start ticking off boxes? But we know our motivation as sinners! We admit that we don’t want to be a business model, there is still that lean sometimes. It would be interesting if we had a bulletin sometimes stating certain specifics about what the church is doing. What we measure ties in to what we reward or punish.

The interesting part of this conversation, it is interesting what the church is comfortable with measuring and what we are not comfortable with measuring. It is what we have become comfortable with measuring. This is simply descriptive in that what you measure is what you value. Be aware that this is all very interrelated. Audience: We need to share what we are measuring; I may be measuring how many people are coming to youth group this week and you may be measuring how many pastors come to the Sunday school class this week. We are all measuring things and the challenge for a church is in measuring different things and that in itself becomes a competition because we don’t have shared understanding. There becomes competing stakeholders and this can become confusing. The role of leadership is to create those kinds of parameters in order for us to work together. A tendency that we have is to focus on things like numbers. Roses were given out to those who made decisions in the church and then the focus became the number of roses that were given out. When I was working in Spiritual Formation in college, people really had a hard time in the area of measuring spiritual development. It is one of those scared areas that for some are off limits. We are charged with being pharisaical when we consider these categories. But the simple principle is, if you don’t measure it, you can assume that the things that are measured will take precedence within the culture. Audience; the word measuring implies statistical measuring; objectively observing it. You may not be able to put numerical values on it, but you need to account for it somehow.

So, it is not always quantifiable, but there has to be a way to objectively observe whether it is happening. This is a tool; it is not a means to an end. For example, even though you state that there is an objective to memorize a hundred verses, the importance is memorization not necessarily a hundred verses. Shane calls this an embedding mechanism. The primary embedding mechanism of organizational culture; we call it a handle. Audience: one of the constructs that has been helpful to me is to recognize that there are process measures and outcome measures. Most people default to the process measures because they are easier to measure. Like, how many things that are done. How many classes have you attended? How many people have you shared the Gospel with? These are good but a difficult one is how to measure outcomes. You can count the number of people in class, but it is difficult to count the number of people that understand or who have changed. Difficult churches can be seen to have different measurements. Sometimes, just paying attention to a certain thing will help to move toward a scale of measurement. The fact that you begin to measure it, it mysteriously begins to take a higher level of precedence within the collective.

B. Response to Crises

Let me share the fifth handle and then I will share how Jesus dealt with these points. So, the fifth handle is how our leaders respond to crises. Leaders can carry on for some time when waters are smooth and when things are going well. So, the organization just carries along by itself. But when a crises comes, whether it is personal or whether it is with personnel or financial. This is when everyone’s radar goes way up and they begin watching the moves the leader makes. In those moments, whatever happens in how they respond in a crisis moment drives the value deeply. This embeds the values deeply within the church culture. If you think about how the leaders in the church that you are involved with that have responded in critical moments and then think how those are reflected in the values that people actually value in church, you will see the connection. Some of these things don’t leave us feeling very settled; they leave me feeling unsettled as I think about my own leadership in the culture we are attempting to build in our ministry. We get focused on a lot of other things, but these are critical as the primary role of a leader is the creation and nurture and the monitoring of culture. We talked about primary embedding mechanisms; these are primary handles; there are secondary ones which include structure, symbols such as you logo and how you create your worship space. There is church structure is a secondary element, even how we arrange the furniture, etc. The problem sometimes is that the church gets those secondary issues in the place of the primary ones. In the best of cases, the secondary ones roll out from the primary ones. Some Christian organizations change their structure every year in order to change the culture. The reality is that they are only rearranging the chairs. It feels good at first, but then it collapses back into itself because the proper issues haven’t been addressed.

As we begin to drill into these five handles and as you think about your own church culture, you will not have to tell somebody that’s acquainted with these five handles how your church is doing. If they are to walk into a church at any time, they wouldn’t have to be told what the values are. The answers to these five questions, the responses will be easily seen. That can be good news or not such good news. Audience: how can you do some of these things when you are not in a position to do anything about it? Lecturer: There are always struggles in not being in a position of making decisions about these issues; I am limited in terms of how much I can affect the outcome of this. As we have talked a lot with younger leaders that are in traditional organizations, this has been one of the struggles. All of us, in order to be Christ centered leaders, in addressing these, in a sense become a buffer between the people that tend to be above us in positions of leadership and those that we have been given responsibility to lead. That is really what it is to be a Christ centered leader. As you think about how Christ led, he was the buffer in many respects between those that held the authority and the power and those that needed God. As he became that buffer, it took him to the cross. In every case, if we are willing to exercise our role, that buffer role of Christ centered leaders, by God’s grace we are going to lead this way with the people that God has given us responsible over to influence and have leadership with, regardless of what the people higher up may do. I believe that often times we have a lot more capacity to address these things that we may think.