Management culture and the church

At the present moment I am in the middle of my MA in Theology and Ministry at Durham Uni, for one of the courses I am doing a Practical Theology Reflection, one of the other modules I am undertaking is Youth work Management. So at the moment I am knee deep in thinking about Theology, about Mission, and about Management, and as ive spent the day reading today on the Management side of things, am contemplating a few thoughts about management in relation to the church.

In Managing Voluntary Organisations Charles Handy describes that “the new language recognises what the voluntary world has known all along- that organisations are living communities with a common purpose, made up of free citizens with minds and values and rights of their own”, and from this grow a better understanding of organisations, built upon philosophy, and theory, and values for organisations.

In Morgans seminal piece on Images of organisation (1998) he describes the trajectory of organisational culture, and management – from post Industrial, Taylorism, and Fordism- a mechanical functional organisation  – through to Organisations as organisms, Organisations as cultural- creating social reality, Organisations as learning organisation, Psychic organisations, organisations of flux and organisations of dominion, all of these are metaphors of organisations- and more than one can exist within an organisation.

The question in my mind is, what sort of organisational culture is the church (ie what organisational structure has it inherited), and what should the church seek to be?

And, is there a clash between the dominant culture of the church, as currently operated, and that as experienced by those who work within it – under the authority persons such as Clergy and voluntary PCC?

It would be obvious to suggest that different denominations of the church operate with different organisational structures, but id reckon most are hierarchical to some degree or another. Yet what kind of organisation, in terms of culture does the church attempt to be?

And how is its organisation shaped by its values and intentions?  Given that at the start my reference is the world of voluntary organisations which seek to listen to and respond to the voice of people in community, meet needs, build on gifts, develop partnerships – in accordance with community development/ youthwork values and principles. It is why writers like Butcher (2012, in Ord) suggest that community and youth workers need to challenge the dominant discourse around policy and leadership and to create their own based upon values and principles. This sense of pioneering, challenging structures and discourses of inherited management seems alien in many inherited church management structures.

Might a reason that youthworkers, and Clergy – as managers- struggle to make that relationship work is that the management models at work are at odds with each other? How often does the Youth worker despair at the politics of the management of a church for example- and not saying clergy don’t either. But the discourses and expectations of management between the youthworker and Clergy might be vastly different. Is it that Youthworkers operate in what Coburn identifies as a ‘border pedagogy’ and thus is more acutely aware of values, of education and the spaces between the structures. And so the structures can represent dominance, power, hindrance, to the worker, and the young people they seek to represent.

So, maybe the system is more at fault than the personalities, but if the management structure of the church was reformed according to the values of the organisation- what would it look like? what would it emphasise? Or have the adopted models of church management run their course, and, like community organisations its time to move beyond mechanical or transactional or macdonaldised modes of management to management cultures befitting of the values of the mission of the church and the values of the Christian faith.

Lewis D (2001) argues that organisations may operate within an ambiguity paradigm, in that they are caught between beaurocratic worlds of management on one hand, and intentions to be operate with more flattened egalitarian, face to face, associational world of management. This may have some resonance Theologically when beliefs about social or hierachical trinity are used to re shape church structures, but that a bureaucratic mode might be too hard to let go of. Especially if power is attributed and held within it. The space within is the ambiguity as change occurs or where there are incoherances between what is idealised, but what is actualised.

Is there hope in that emerging church developments have adopted more equal management models? well maybe – but that only goes so far in determining the culture of a new organisation, how might they be shaped around creating social reality, or learning culture , or something else befitting the values of a new organisational group. its obviously easier in smaller groups and networks.

What is the current mood music in the church in relation to management – has it adopted business models too quickly – when christian youthworkers might feel that this emphasis is too numbers driven? Has the church adopted a universal strategy for management culture that doesnt take into account the complexities of local contexts? Might each church seek to develop its own management culture to fit its own communities local needs, ministry and mission? what then…. So could it shape itself according to values – not dissimilar to the emphasis of community and youthwork, after all – we’re all in the transformational ‘business’.

Maybe my head has been in books too long today to make any sense of considering the church and its management culture (s), where it derives them from, and what influences the way its structures are today.  But maybe there is something in here, some nugget for someone somewhere, Thoughts on my random thoughts as ever welcome…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s