I’ve anointed Perry Chen the Patron Saint of A Church for Starving Artists – at least for this week, because his thinking is rocking my ecclesiastical world.
He was featured on the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz recently and this quote sparked a flood of ideas:
Governance is the killer app. And I don’t mean leadership at the operational level. I mean organization at the corporate governance level. We’ve been running so much on this totally profit-centric system in the US. and even the biggest businesses are giving their head nods to a lot of other things that matter in the social contract. But that’s going to take real evolution of governance – something nobody’s thought about for a long time. I think this is going to be an era. I think this is how things are going to differentiate. Like people look at an Uber and a Lyft and say, “It’s the same thing.” But over time the difference in a lot of things will be governance.*
The future of creativity/generativity is in governance.
What will matter in the most successful organizations in the future will be “their soul and the alignment of their actions with their own stated mission values.” If it’s our church’s fundamental mission is actually to serve ourselves then no attempt to grow will succeed because people are craving authentic relationships and meaning.
- Does your congregation’s Governing Board spend lots of time tweaking the bylaws? Or do they consider how they can make the space friendlier? (I once sat through a meeting during which two hours were spent clarifying whether pet dogs could be in the building. It evolved into whether pet ferrets, cats, and parrots could also be in the building. Jesus wept.)
- Does your church have a long list of requirements for people who want to be ushers (i.e. must wear a suit, no open-toed shoes) or are ushers anyone who understands the ministry of hospitality? (There are many congregations who do not allow women or children to be ushers. Believe me – most folks hope for someone who will be so happy to see them without regard to age or gender.)
- Is the Manual of Operations for your church thicker than “Oh the Places You’ll Go“? The thicker the MoO, the less permission-giving the organization which means that creativity is often squelched.
- Does your Governing Board spend more time talking about the bills than sharing what signs of transformation they’ve seen because of the church’s impact on the community?
Now more than ever, the way we govern our organization will impact its vitality. And if sociologists who study generations are correct, the youngest generations will be more interested in the soul and mission of an organization than anything else. More about that here.
My hope – as the Mid-Council leader of many congregations – is that I would help shift our culture to be more generative than extractive. Step One: look at how you govern, church leaders. Is it about being expedient? Being Cheap? Appearing successful? Or following Jesus?
Note: Dan Hotchkiss wrote about this regarding congregations and other non-profits. I connected more with Perry Chen but the Hotchkiss book is an important resource.
*Lyft is generally considered less corporate than Uber which is appealing to many consumers who would use a ride-sharing app. If Lyft proves to be a more compassionate company in the way they treat their employees and their customers, they will thrive more than Uber according to Perry Chen and others.