Does The Church Need Visionaries Or Managers?

Does The Church Need Visionaries Or Managers?

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‘Details….’ by Stacy Davis on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

“I’ve had an idea,” I told Debbie. “We should invite Dave Bilbrough to come to the church for a concert. It would help make people here feel that they matter just as much in a village as in a big town.”

Debbie flashed me her practiced look of loving scorn. “OK – so who’s going to sell the tickets, who will do the sound, who will take on the refreshments, who will design the publicity?” There were probably quite a few more ‘who will’s, but five years on, I’ve forgotten them.

There never was any doubt that Debbie and I were a classic case of opposites attract. I like visions and big ideas. Debbie is practical, and sees all the fine detail questions in the present tense. I am a visionary (well, of sorts), and she is a manager.

The question posed in the title of this post is of course a false dichotomy. The church needs both visionaries and managers. My fear is that the church prefers managers to the exclusion of visionaries. And where there is no vision … etc.

Where do I see this? It is amazing how prized a gift it is in church circles for people who demonstrate attention to detail. And I wouldn’t denigrate that gift – it’s essential. But if that’s all we value, then those who see the big picture will find it hard to make their contribution.

Add to this the way the church confuses leadership with management, and you have a big problem. I am all for the notion that all truth is God’s truth, but the church is rather too talented at baptising secular management strategies every time it has a leadership problem. The latest example in my denomination is a craze for ‘supervision’. Doubtless it’s a worthy thing, but it’s still a layer of management, and not a tool for leadership.

We need both leadership and management, but we will lose the ability to dream the dreams of God if we confuse the two as one. We need to seek teams that embrace both gifts so that we have leaders who will cast visions that people will follow, and managers who will implement the necessary consequences. If we put the managers in charge, then we’ll die the death of a thousand soporific committees.

There are a few gifted individuals who can hold together vision and detail. Outside the church, the late Steve Jobs comes to mind. He could inspire people to see a vision for a product, and he expected his workforce to give attention to detail, to the point that the parts of a device that would never be seen by the user were constructed with the same care and finesse as the outer casing.

But one reason Jobs was so striking is that he was the exception. The church needs to stop expecting omnicompetence in its ministers, and leave that to God. Instead, we need teamed leadership that expresses multiple gifts.

I’ll have more to say on that in future posts.

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