About eight years ago I was introduced to a gentleman named Russ Crabtree. Russ was a successful church consultant who had, a few years earlier, co-authored a book titled The Elephant in the Boardroom, speaking the unspoken about pastoral succession, which is often recognized as one of the best books ever written on the topic. That was the initial means to our introduction, but we quickly developed a personal rapport and friendship that led to a number of professional collaborations.
Russ is one of those truly special individuals – a rare gem in a sea of unique people. He is direct yet empathetic; both analytical and innovative; a brilliant thinker and an excellent communicator; a creative problem solver with the soul of an artist. He served as a pastor for more than 20 years before shifting to work as a consultant to churches and other non-profit organizations. He trained me in his methodology for succession planning, we worked on some projects together and he graciously coached me as I developed my consulting practice. The more we had an opportunity to work together, the more I felt like I won the “mentor lotto.”
Russ developed and introduced me to the “organizational intelligence” approach to consulting. Organizational intelligence (OI) offers a three-dimensional view of the church or organization. It is like taking the church to a doctor, a tailor and a travel agent. Leaders come away understanding the overall health and culture of the church, the specific areas where adjustments or changes are needed, and where the people want to go together in the future. I was hooked. I caught a vision for how these insights not only inform the succession process, but also form the foundation for every critical decision leaders make in the life of a church: pastoral transition, strategic planning, team development, growth and change management. We use it as a basis for the Candidate Profile in every senior leadership transition we serve.
For example, if the OI indicates the church is in chaos (where congregants indicate there is a lot of energy and activity, but very little of it is satisfying), the initial candidate profile might describe a leader who will work quickly to assess the state of the ministry – what is working and what isn’t working. It might depict a directional leader who will set clear strategy and develop organizational focus. This person will align ministries and ministry leaders, improve communication and links between the ministries and the people, and get the staff team pulling in the same direction. In essence, the chaos church requires a leader who will create order out of the chaos.
When the OI shows a church to be in recovery or in need of a turnaround (where congregants lack both energy and satisfaction with the current state of the church) the profile might describe a challenge-motivated change-agent who is not afraid of a little hard work. The right candidate for this kind of church is someone who can diagnose problems and then inspire and motivate people toward the right solutions. Since congregants in recovery generally understand that things are not working well, this leader can bring a faster pace and solutions can be implemented more quickly than in some other situations.
Churches that are stuck are, in OI terms, said to be in status quo (where energy levels of congregants are low but satisfaction is high, so there is no motivation to do anything differently). Stuck churches represent the greatest challenge to pastors. Churches that fit this description are at the greatest risk of organizational death. The candidate profile for a church in status quo might include a patient, gentle, shepherding, slow-paced change agent who can build trusting relationships with the people and gradually motivate and encourage them to increase their vision for the Kingdom so that they become more active and energized.
If the OI indicates the church is already in a transformational posture (a healthy outlook where congregants are simultaneously energized by their participation in the church and satisfied by it) the initial profile might describe a leader who is not a wholesale change agent, but an improvement agent. A transformational church does not need to change as much as it needs a well-paced, collaborative leader who can work with the existing team to build on the healthy foundation that was laid by another; someone who will build relationships and trust before moving forward to innovate, advance and replicate the good things that are already happening there.
These broad brushstrokes illustrate how four churches of a similar theology, size, demographic and worship style could have very different needs with regard to their leadership, strategy and/or development. One size does not fit all. Utilizing organizational intelligence tools provide the lens through which decision-makers gain the clarity needed to craft the right path forward and then to execute that plan with confidence.
You can learn more about Russ and the OI tools offered by Holy Cow Consulting (HCC) at www.holycowconsulting.com. NL Moore & Associates is a strategic associate of HCC and is committed to an evidence-based (organizational intelligence) approach to leadership transitions. Check it out. No matter what the challenge, this approach works. Every time.