Are You Average Enough?


“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” – Peter Drucker

T his quote hit me today. For years my Midnight Oil partner Jason Moore and I led seminars, advocating more effective use of media in worship and ministry, with mixed results. We have often heard the rejoinder, “We don’t have the skillset that you two bring!”

Our response has typically been something like, Use what you have. But I remember many post-seminar tugs at my spirit, where I have questioned the ability of churches to fully implement what we have called Creative Worship.

Jason and I have never wanted churches to be dependent on star staff and lay people, yet that often seems to be the case when it comes to matching secular production values amid the demands of a high-deadline, low-resource environment of a local church.

Maybe the question needs to be reframed as, What specific thing can the average layperson begin to do in your church?

While we all would love to be surrounded by what we will call 5-talent people, using Jesus’ parable, most of us are, and have, 1- and 2-talent people. Rather than trying to teach designer-level principles and skills, the more effective leadership technique is to aim for cost-effectiveness; that is, what effective implementation of this vision can be attained using people with average skillsets?

Are you average enough for your vision? How can you make sure that your skills don’t inhibit your ability to communicate your vision? How does your vision need to be presented and organizationally structured so that 1- and 2-talent people can implement it?

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).

6 Comments on “Are You Average Enough?”

  1. I have been asking this question for years. At larger (mega) churches, the talent pool is deep. This makes for different and more creative opportunities and expressions. In average, or even many large churches, the possibilities are more average. In a consumer based market, the flock tends to go where the greenest grass is – which exacerbates the problem. The talent collects unevenly.
    So, yes, the question becomes, what can I/we do excellently to inspire our people to engage with God with the skill sets we have available? I think one of the roots of the issue is that we do not serve an average God and no creative wants to settle for average expressions of worship to such an awesome God. Especially not when we can see that there are other organizations who can express at much more creative and inspiring levels.

  2. That’s good Jim. One of my regular QnA responses to this question is, do one thing well. The issue, though, and this is where I am learning better ways to frame the question, becomes not about doing but about developing. Production and leadership development are different things. I was able to balance both while at Ginghamsburg by sheer effort of hours, but in a different situation, such as I am in now with four kids, the balance often falls to production. It needs to fall to development.

  3. Which means that effective organizations adopt a long view, and not a short term, “shareholder” view. One church that gets this is 12Stone in GA, which developed very slowly for a long time, then suddenly exploded when it reached a critical mass of leadership.

  4. Len,
    For many of us, the problems start the mintue we say “change.” People, even as young as their late 30’s have this idea that “CHURCH” should resemble something out of a Norman Rockwell print. You guys do some great stuff, but the truth is, in many churches the “budget” is used to strangle out change. There is also the problem that many pastors have no idea how to preach using a screen. They do not understand transitions or the need to give the creative types the heads up on what their sermon is about. We talk about contemporary worship, but it ends with the music selection.

    1. Hip-hip! Hooray! for your comment, Bill!! Somehow, we’ve come to think “contemporary worship” is about amplified instruments and vocals set with tight harmonies and chest-thumping volume. But too often, the movement of the service is not a Movement of the Holy Spirit!

      I’m not convinced that we necessarily must learn how to “preach using a screen.” Our attempts to use technology to be relevant just ends up making our irrelevancy show up even more. I don’t see any way for a worship service to compete with the production values of a summer blockbuster. We don’t have the time, the budget, or the access to creative talent to make it happen. However, we do have a significant advantage over Hollywood: we have a DIRECT face-to-face relationship with people. The best preachers/leaders are the ones who can maintain that connection even as the size of congregations grow – which points back to Len’s main point: bringing up 1- and 2-talent folks into a place where they can excel.

  5. Bill, thanks for the post. I’m editing a new book right now by Paul Borden called Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days (Abingdon, 2012). Comes out in April. Borden identifies very specific steps a pastor can do to help enact change, even in change resistant churches.

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