by Terry Camsey, Major –
The recent, annual, flurry of officer moves reminded me of the stress involved in this practice—having to pack and unpack and arranging for the forwarding of mail. This is in addition to the psychological stress of disengaging emotionally from one congregation and building from scratch a relationship with a new one.
Beryl and I were particularly aware of this since, during this period, we also moved to new apartment, and took vacation—leaving much to be unpacked when we returned! We, too, had to arrange for mail to be forwarded from our old address and held until we returned to the new home. The “fun” started when we tried to collect those accumulated communications.
We went to the local post office and “took a number.” All very efficient, we thought, until we noticed that a couple of the employees behind the counter were more interested in their personal conversation, regardless of the ticket-clutching crowd waiting for service.
At last we were invited to the counter and I asked the clerk if he could tell me where to pick up my mail. He pulled out a crudely sketched duplicate copy of a map that he rotated several times, first to try to identify the location of the post office where I was currently standing.
Some time later, we managed to locate the collection center. As we arrived, a mail van was just leaving. I stopped it and asked the driver where the front entrance was. He pointed to the other end of the building. On the way there we passed what seemed to be the main entrance—iron bars surrounded it. We kept looking and finally came to an iron door that was shut and locked and that displayed a notice reading, “Customers use the front door. U.S. Property. No Trespassing.”
Fortunately, there was an employee exiting, and we asked her for information. She seemed helpful and, as she re-entered the premises, closing the door securely behind her, told us to wait there and she would be back shortly. After about 15 minutes another employee came out and asked us if he could help. We told him about the female employee who had promised prompt attention and—again closing the door—off he went to find her.
Eventually, we did get our mail, but the whole experience could well have been an allegory for some places of worship where people come in search of the “gospel communication,” yet find it difficult to negotiate entrance to the place they expect to find it.
The point I want to make is that all organizations, sooner or later, can, without intervention—like the post office—age and become a bureaucracy: a place isolated from its environment where nobody has the big picture; where people know the rules but not why they are in place; where little or no market research takes place to improve service. But worst of all, where customers and clients are seen as a nuisance!
Recently I spoke with a close friend who holds a high position in a bank that is being taken over by a much larger one. He is fortunate in that, rather than being demoted or dispensed with by the bank, he has actually been promoted. This is in recognition of his skills and ability, but beyond that it reflects the philosophy of the bigger bank—he is required to attend “servant leadership” classes!
Isn’t that interesting? A large, secular, organization that has adopted a strategy demonstrated so long ago by Jesus Christ and which should be the leadership principle of all denominations, including every individual church within those denominations. What was it we used to sing? “J-O-Y spells JOY—Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.” It’s a great maxim!