The Body Builder – “Organizing” Abandonment

By Captain Terry Camsey –  Captain Terry Camsey

Well, here we are: another year closer to the 21st Century. It is quite amazing how many denominations and churches see that as being a significant chronological event in the history of Christianity. However, since eternity is incomprehensible and (as we sing in song No. 13 in the Song book), “A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone,” perhaps from that perspective it will be just another day in the life of the Deity.

I’m kidding, of course, because I am sure God is as interested in the minutes of each day as he is in the passing of the weeks…years…decades…centuries…millennia…and…

There’s nothing like a thousand years or so to focus one’s thinking, though, and the whole of Christendom, it seems, is paying special attention to the task of evangelizing the lost. The danger with any special project, however, is that when the thrust comes to an end, excitement soon dissipates…unless there is another equally motivational project to take its place.

I wonder whether, in our zeal to expand, we are overlooking one key component of our strategy. (I am speaking generally, of expansion thrusts in every territory, not in any specific one.) Peter Drucker has put his finger on it when he suggests that non-profits need to learn how to practice “organized abandonment.”

He states that “almost every business (we could include church as well) desires to grow. But few know if they are really growing or merely getting obese…To determine a corporate growth policy…you must decide, not where and how to grow, but what to abandon. In order to grow, first a business must have a policy to rid itself of the obsolete and the unproductive.”

(Mr. Drucker mentions other questions to be asked of a corporate growth policy, but it is this notion of “organized abandonment” that piqued my interest.)

The reality is that one can add programs to corps calendars, but have great difficulty in “axing” them when they cease to produce the fruit they were established to bear. In small corps, especially, struggling to maintain (and increase attendances of) such a program load despite an aging and shrinking leadership base, the image can be one of a skeleton too large for the available flesh to cover. Such bodies may well display the characteristic emaciation.

There seem to be two options to that situation…increase the flesh…or shrink the skeleton!

Drucker seems to be suggesting that shrinking the program skeleton (through “organized abandonment”) needs to be considered before anything else is done.

If the key to programming is leadership, and…if current programs in some settings lack sufficient leadership so that the few leaders available are stretched beyond desirable limits…perhaps abandonment of some activities, to release time for outreach which can produce more leaders, is not a bad alternative.

In fact, coupled with a resolve that no program be maintained or started without a leader, dramatic improvement in the health of corps “bodies” could well be the outcome!

Tony Danhelka calls it “selective neglect.” It’s worth thinking about.

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