Though it should go without saying, I find it beneficial every now and then to remind people that this blog is only the opinion of one person --- mine. I do not officially represent any organization, including the International Mission Board or even my church. However, I do attempt to write from with heart with thoughts carefully sorted, and intentionally worded, in order to engage Southern Baptists to help better our convention ministries.
I am fastidious about addressing what I believe to be the pertinent issues and I stringently avoid attacking personalities. This blog is about possible solutions to convention problems and at times, honest praise for outstanding convention ministry. I write with passion, and of course, I always desire to write factually. There are some who would say I should not write because I don't know enough to legitimately express my concerns, but frankly, if I waited till I felt I knew everything I needed to know, I would never write. I am willing to learn along the way and find myself advancing in knowledge daily.
With that introduction, I would like to articulate five systemic problems within a bureaucracy. These problems are in no form or fashion an indictment of any person or persons, or for that matter any agency within our convention. Rather, these five issues are a direct result of my personal observation of different bureaucracies with which I am acquainted.
When I say the problems are systemic I mean the problems "affect the entire organization, not just a part of it." One of the reasons Christian organizations should not find systemic problems within their bureaucracies is because we have Christian people in charge --- good people by the grace of God. And as it has been said . . .
1. A good man in a bad system will not abuse the bad system, and
2. A good system can deal with a bad man and curtail his power, but
3. A bad system eventually attracts, encourages, and protects bad men.
Bureaucracy is a way of organizing work. It involves hierarchy, in which people at higher levels are bosses of those below, and so on down the chain. It also involves the division of labour, in which some people do one thing and others do other things.
I am ruminating on the following problems that arise within bureaucracies, and if these problems are in any of our convention bureaucracies, I am open for suggestions on how to correct the problem.
Here are my personal observations . . .
1. When power and authority become too centralized in a large organization, good communication with the grass roots worker, and proper accountability for the administrative superior, are both far more difficult to accomplish.
2. Superiors often put pressure on field workers to produce quick results and to report significant numerical gains in order to compare favorably with other divisions within the organization or to produce reports that reflect well on supervisory positions, and as a result, this focus on results often leads to frustration and fear among field workers.
3. With a division of responsibilities in a bureaucracy, decisions that affect the field are often made by superiors or managers who have little or no contact with the field, and as result, the attempted implementation of new policy which is often counterproductive to the work on the field causes frustration among workers.
4. When the wishes and wisdom of field workers is ignored, and when the support and encouragement of field workers is withheld, then the organization begins to crumble because the foundation is not properly maintained.
5. The larger an organization becomes, the longer it takes to turn the organization around, and as a result, any change in philosphical, missiological or methodological direction of any large organization is best initiated from grass roots workers, with an understanding that only major, inviolable principles will be codified across the organization to allow for maximum freedom and flexibility and to prevent sporadic and frequent change from the top down which damages the best work of field workers which often requires time, persistence, and dedication.
Some possible solutions coming Monday on how ministry and bureaucracy may possibly be compabitable.
In His Grace,