There are many parallels between churches implementing Organic Outreach and businesses harnessing the power of teams. Why? They are both undertaking organizational change efforts, which is one of the most difficult challenges for any leader. While the organizations have different missions, both involve people who often resist change. As team-based organizations have been attempted for several decades now, we have a wealth of experience from which to learn. This is the first of a series of articles which will examine similarities between the two entities, and how we can apply what we learn from the business world to churches.
Issue: Resistance to Programs
In a business: When I first start working with a client who wants to build an engaged workplace, I often conduct focus groups and hear comments such as, “It’s another ‘flavor of the month’ program, if we wait long enough, this too shall pass.” And you know what? They were often right about previous efforts. You may be familiar with some of these programs such as quality circles, management by walking around, and Total Quality Management. Businesses focused on the idea of implementing the program, and sometimes dedicated an entire department to work on the effort. However, these programs were usually unsustainable long term.
In a church: As I first start sharing about Organic Outreach, I often hear a similar response:
- “This is just like the ‘Walk Across the Hall’ program we did years ago. Or was it room? I don’t recall.”
- “We have a director of outreach who does a great job organizing volunteers to help in the community.”
Just like with engagement, at first glance Organic Outreach can wrongly be viewed as another “program.” Let’s look at how to help others make the shift to viewing it as a cultural change effort.
Solution: Share and Show
In business, for employees to embrace that a permanent change is coming, one that modifies how everything is done, leaders must:
- Communicate frequently and powerfully
- Walk the Talk
- Maintain momentum
Bottom line – you need to share information about the change and show you are committed to it.
Communicate Frequently and Powerfully
This is also true if you are leading Organic Outreach. I wish I had a dollar for every business leader that said “Well, I already told them how it was going to work. Why don’t they get it?” The message needs to be clear and repeated, and not just by the head pastor or Outreach Influence Team Leader, but by all leaders in the church. When you consider all of the other messages people are bombarded with, it’s apparent that they need to hear about this shift and how it impacts them on a regular basis.
What makes communication powerful? It is the ability to convey a complex item in a simple way that everyone can understand. Metaphors are one of the most effective tools (Pastor Tony Evans with the Urban Alternative has mastered this art). If you can share the story through questions vs. telling, it will stick even better.
For example, to explain how Organic Outreach is not a program, you might consider this approach:
Share the following: “Let’s say we have a woman who is dragged to church weekly and another woman who is a committed Christian. What is the difference in how God likely impacts their actions?” and see how they respond. For example, for the forced attender, it might not look anything different than allocating time for a one-hour visit. For the committed believer, it would likely change how this person talks, acts, thinks, behaves at work, spends her money, makes decisions, measures success, uses her time, etc. Then ask, “How hard would it be for each woman to undo the impact of God in their lives?”
This difference in penetration is true for an evangelistic program vs. a cultural change like Organic Outreach. It impacts the church’s structure, types of conversations heard, how all ministries are conducted, internal systems like performance evaluations, what is measured, how money is invested, who is welcomed, etc.
Walk the Talk
It is imperative that the church’s leaders align their actions, thoughts and speech with the core values of Organic Outreach. If we aren’t following what we are asking others to do, we lose the trust of our followers. We are no longer credible, and thus greatly reduce our ability to lead.
Having a truth teller hold us accountable is the most effective approach to ensure we are walking the talk. Each week, they should be asking us tough questions like:
- How much time did you intentionally spend with non-believers?
- What have you done to increase your Outreach temperature*?
- Who did you share with about something God is doing/has done in your life?
Just like a drip marketing campaign, you need to be thinking about how you will keep Organic Outreach in front of church members so it is on their radar. When they stop hearing about it, they will figure “that program is over and we have moved on.” You need to be planning regular and ongoing ways to keep Organic Outreach in the forefront of their minds and hearts.
A future newsletter will take a deeper dive into strategies for maintaining momentum. Participating in a cohort will also help you develop strategies specific to your church.
Your challenge: Add a recurring weekly calendar reminder each Monday to review how you are doing on these three items.
* If you are not familiar with the term “Outreach Temperature,” follow this link to a brief video on the concept.
Loriana Sekarski is President of BONSAI, a leadership coaching and consulting business. She is a leadership, engagement and soft skills expert. Loriana has been consulting and advising businesses and organizations on cultural change and engagement for over 25 years. She also instructs graduate students on these topics at Washington University in St. Louis. Her interest in sustainability of change efforts was ignited in her graduate research at MIT.