Wednesday, November 22, 2017

In the air tonight

Reflecting on styles of leadership I recall another four box diagram that has followed me around for a lot of my time in ministry.

It was shared by Canon John Finney, an evangelism adviser in Southwell Diocese, back in about 1983/4. I think the context was a St John's College Evangelism Week.

He described congregations as if they were planes preparing for take off. Plane 1 is heading off into the sky looking for excitement ahead. Plane 2 is taxiing along the runway and will go next. Plane 3 is on the ground and not yet moving. Plane 4 is not yet loaded.

(Love the reflection of my hands in the image -  so unprofessional.)

Now, he said:

Plane 1 represents those members of your church who want to move on and are looking for new things.

Plane 2 represents those who will go with a new idea once they get it but will have hesitations at first.

Plane 3 represents those who are happy as things are and are change averse.

Plane 4 represents those who want to go back to some expression of the past when all was well.

Then he asked this. Assuming you can only communicate with adjacent planes, which metaphorical plane should the leader appear to be on?

There isn't necessarily a 'right' answer, because it's an artificial construct to get us to think about our leadership. But it sets out the dilemma.

If you avoid being on a plane at all and stand between them you can only communicate with two and one will probably run you over.

If you go on 4 you can't communicate with 1 or 2. If you go on 1 you can't communicate with 3 or 4.

So the choice comes down to this, assuming you want to keep in touch with the maximum number of people. Do you travel on plane 2, hopefully encouraging the very slow adopters in plane 3 and keeping a slight brake on plane 1's load of over-enthusiasm? The traditionalists in plane 4 may leave.

Or do you travel on plane 3 communicating constantly with plane 4 and encouraging plane 2 to go faster. Plane 1 may go somewhere more lively.

I find it helpful because it often feels within a church setting that there is just one more group of people than you can realistically deal with.

All passengers for the church of the future. Please go to Gate J.

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