Why, as a practical theologian, organisations matter to me
Much of my early working days was in the corporate ministry environment… a mega-congregation, if you will. A typical aspect of the mega-congregation is membership in the reach of thousands. At one time our estimation was about 5000 members. In this context I always had a small number of big passions… families was and still is one of them; though, not families in isolation but the idea of families creating awesome communities. Yet another passion lurked inside of me.
A passion for organisations (including its structures, language, behaviour of its people, etc) came to the fore owing in part to our ministry team experiencing almost continual tension. The continual change processes affecting the larger organisation also impacted me profoundly. It was so much different than some of my own smaller companies. Of these processes I experienced the transition between what I saw as three era’s, but get this… three of the four major transitions took place in only ten years (of more than twenty years’ existence).
Here are four aspects that pulls me towards organisations:
- Different currencies. Generally the faith organisation, its leadership and membership (employee’s – ?) will state that they do things for different reasons and towards different purposes than non-faith based organisations. My love for organisations (though not excluding congregations) has to do with this different kind of currency. Various kinds of currencies are also at play in non faith-based organisations.
- Ability to do good. When organisations are in touch with their non-financial currency, with the big idea of what it’s reason for existence is, great things can and do happen (Don’t confuse your reason for existence with the imperative of your business statement). This greatness then extends beyond the first bottom-line entry. It organically builds its people because their is space to flourish. It is this ‘flourishing’ that is important to me as a practical theologian. When organisations and its people flourish this spells good news not only to the economy but society. It raises the standard of living, of meaning, and indeed revenue plays a very important role.
- Critical relationships. It’s taken me a long time to come to some sort of reason why I hang on to counseling/ therapy. In counseling I don’t do the whole spectrum of what counselors are trained for. I realised that to me it’s about the importance of building and maintaining the critical relationships that make larger things work. The critical relationships that appeal to me takes me to families and organisations. Families and its critical relationships play no small part in how we do in organisations as employees, leaders, managers, and as organisations as a whole.
- Prime time. Apart from the importance of families people should realise that they spend their species prime time in some form of organisation. So, also in this setting we develop critical relationships the quality of which will impact us throughout our lives. It’s sad when I hear in coaching with more senior people that they are so tired of the corporate thing. They go on to explain circumstances that shows to a lack of meaning. We do not have to work in ways to exclude meaning from organisations. Yet, there will always be those for whom it really is just about the financial bottom line and seeing people as tools to ever increase production, output and revenue (This is regrettably also the purpose that many organisations reduce coaching to, to enhance this, because it works).
To me, God is in all of this. For the above and other reasons God has a passion for seeing organisations flourish. Yes I have my personal views but my professional work is however far from evangelism. To the contrary I have great appreciation for different perspectives and the wisdom of different traditions of thousands of years. Still the matter of God and spirituality is intrinsically linked to significance and purpose. This I’ll leave for another day but what do you think?
Do you think that in organisations, a practical theologian has a role to play?