Wading in the rubble?
Well, here it comes again…a further challenge to the integrity and effectiveness of the “Vision2000 and Beyond” initiative. I refer to the impact of another round of officer moves related to the commissioning and appointment of another session of graduating officer cadets.
It has been known for some years that the overall result of moving church leaders frequently has been an overall negative effect on growth, regardless of the denomination. This phenomenon has been observed, too, in the Army. Research in this territory has shown that when officers are moved en masse, some corps previously in a growth mode continue to grow, while others plateau and/or start to decline. Also, some corps previously in a plateau/decline mode continue to stay in that mode, or start to grow. The net overall effect, however, has been observed to result in a 10% decrease in the number of corps in growth mode.
We have also seen that, generally speaking, longer stays of corps officers are conducive (but not always) to growth.
One of the problems that I have observed over many years is that there is a tendency for incoming officers to want to ignore what their predecessor has been doing in favor of something more suited to their own strengths.
Picture this imaginary scenario (no names to protect the innocent!). An officer arrives at a corps and says, “We are going to build this corps through the music program…follow me.” The people dutifully follow. Just a few years later another officer arrives and says, “Forget about the music program, we are going to build this corps through the Sunday school…follow me.” The people dutifully follow.
Several officers later, the new officer says, “We are going to build this corps through the men’s fellowship program…follow me.” The people respond, “You go, we are fed up of changing direction with every change of officer!”
Can you see the picture in your mind’s eye…you walk into a corps and find yourself wading, waist-high, through the rubble of foundations laid but never built on by a succession of officers… foundations, but no lasting structure.
This begs a question. If God has in mind a vision and plan for a corps, does he change his mind every time the Army chooses to change the officer? My personal conviction is that he does not. If some sensitive officers will work with a corps council to help them discover God’s will for that corps in that community, then facilitate transforming the vision into an action plan, it would be a tremendously helpful start.
The test will be whether the succeeding officers will then help the corps fulfill that plan, or toss it out and lay another foundation on top of the previous one. The “Vision2000 and Beyond” visioning and planning process (together with new corps evaluation) set forth a process whereby this is possible, but in the final analysis it will depend substantially on the officer as to whether possibility becomes actuality.
Yes, circumstances do change and every corps vision should be examined frequently to see if adjustments need to be made in view of such changes, but to “toss out the baby” … to discard the existing strategic plan with little regard for the previous efforts of the corps council may well challenge the will of God, sought and responded to during the process.
Please, let’s stop adding to the trouble and creating more rubble!