Tom Bandy is one of the principals of Easum/Bandy and Associates and a great author and consultant too. He and Bill Easum facilitate regular learning forums for change leaders, church planters as well as denominational officials. I am a participant in several of their email forums. A few weeks back now, Tom addressed a concern in the forum about a positive role of denominational officials in helping churches in change. He was gracious to allow me to share it with you. If you are now apart of a denominational system, I think the same thing could be said for other interventionists that assist churches. ASSISTING SYSTEMIC CHANGE I agree that the terminology of "bottom up" and "top down" are probably no longer adequate to interpret how systemic change happens in the church. However, I disagree with the view that "bottom up transformation is a myth". It has happened ... and is happening ... all the time, and in all of the spheres of culture named. The initiative or motivating power for systemic change almost always emerges from below ... and also from the fringes. This is not because regional and national leaders are indifferent or insensitive to innovation, but because organizationally denominations (and other institutions) are designed for programmatic change ... not systemic change. We are caught up in portfolios and divisions and job descriptions ...and politics, and heritage protection, and preservation of denominational ethos. Recently I had the same experience re-enacted in another denominational meeting (I won't mention which). Judicatory leaders are most helpful, however, in maintaining MOMENTUM for transformation. While it may be initiated from below, strong leadership must accelerate the momentum. This leadership CAN be from the national or regional judicatories, but it does not HAVE to be. My experience is that if national or middle judicatory leaders cannot give systemic change leadership, then congregations will go around roadblocks to form their own networks (within or beyond the denomination), their own partnerships (within or beyond the traditional religious sectors, and even among business and non-profit sectors), and their own leadership development (with resources and mentors of their own choosing). In short, the water of change is rising, and it will find its new watercourse one way or another. Denominational leaders can be incredibly be helpful ... but do not in themselves initiate, channel, or control the rising tide of change. Let me test several ideas with all of you regarding the potential positive role of denominational leadership for systemic change in churches. 1) I like the comment from one of our participants that denominational leaders have the most impact by addressing ATTITUDE change, rather than TACTICS. They can teach, or better yet behaviorally model, a "new way of thinking" for congregations and congregational leaders stuck in old paradigms. 2) Denominational leaders can help channel change by offering help in synthesizing seeming opposites, breaking down old polarizations between "liberal" and "conservative", and helping congregational leaders (enthusiastic initiators that they are) to see a larger and more intricate picture when it comes to local and global mission. 3) The emerging configuration of leadership is the team. These teams may be formal, but are most often informal, partnerships between national and local leaders. As the micro/macro nature of change accelerates, middle or regional leadership may find itself marginalized unless they are very proactive and desire to participate. (I digress here to note that although I find middle judicatory leaders such as those in this forum who are "on board" with systemic change, they always express to me their own sense of isolation among their middle judicatory colleagues. Ten years ago I would have said that national leadership were among the most defensive and reactionary voices among denominations ... but I am not sure I would think that today.) 4) The most effective leadership teams not only model the macro/micro world, but they are often ad hoc or informal. They do not emerge through the institutionalized and politicized nominations processes of the denomination. They are formed at the initiative of a national or local leader "providentially", and may often contradict and alarm the actual official infrastructure. I think I have a different perspective from (another person), who suggests that denominational leaders can best lead systemic change through their own portfolios or spheres of influence. My personal experience, and that of colleagues, and my observation of others, is that denominational leaders best lead change when the STEP OUTSIDE their traditional job descriptions and begin to think and live holistically. Systemic change cannot be achieved programmatically, in the sense that various tasks can be divided among several offices. It happens when denominational leaders learn to shed their job descriptions and work in true post-modern teams of equals who individually and together share a holistic vision of congregational mission. A last comment about stress: If all of the above is true, denominational leaders who really do LEAD transformation (not just programmatic change) will be under tremendous stress from every direction. I am not sure that this is the place for me to tell my own story, and so I will refrain. I will only say that it is a very hard road to follow for denominational leaders, but that at least in my case it ended well. Attitudes and priorities in my national office did change ... people who formerly hated my mission became trusted friends and colleagues ... the division shifted toward team-based leadership. None of that came easily, and the colleagues who continue also experience enormous stress ... and joy ... as well. Thanks to Tom for his contribution. By the way the Easum/Bandy group has email forums as well as some new advanced learning options available this year. They have a brand new web-based seminar through the EBA Community as of January 1. There is a new topic in this EBA Community Coaching Seminar every month (except July). In addition, they are the featured presenters at The Easum, Bandy Convergence (Convergence - "The occurrence of two or more things coming together") EBA will hold two events in 2001 that involve all of the EBA team (eight). Dates and Places: April 24 -- Columbus, Ohio -- September 18 -- Baltimore, Maryland 8:30am to 9:00 pm. To get more information, check out their very cool web site at www.easumbandy.com. Warning though, Bill Easum's picture is on there so close one eye.:)

source: Church Champions Update Feb 12, 2001 tags: Church, Paradigms, Change