Driving into the Future

Driving into the Future

two hands grip a black steering wheel, a windshield with raindrops and windshield wipers movingFrom the Rev. Dorthy Nielsen, interim vicar at St. Alban’s, Tillamook.

Imagine for a moment a car…any car…it can be any make, model, color, and whatever other features you want. You are going on a road trip and in your car are four individuals: Driver, Navigator, and two Passengers, one of whom is a back-up Driver.

George Bullard, a leadership coach for congregations, pastors, and leaders, uses this image to illustrate his seasoned understanding of how congregations can become vital and vibrant. He is very clear that this can happen only when congregations and their leaders work together. He develops the four individuals in the car (which is the congregation), who help move to vitality and new life.

Visionary Leadership, Relationship Experiences, Programmatic Emphases, and Accountable Management are the four qualities Bullard lifts up.

A congregation with only Visionary Leadership may have an idea of what the journey needs to be, but also needs the other three in order to move along the path toward the goal of the renewed life of the congregation. If Relationship Experiences is all that the congregation has going on, a lot of good intentions may be present, but without Programmatic Emphases the mission goes nowhere.

When programs are the main focus, then the goal is on programmatic success, rather than mission, and soon, increasing budgets and membership becomes the driver of the congregation. Accountable Managment alone may make an efficient congregation, but moves the congregation from a living organism to an organization, to becoming a museum of what has been.

So, Bullard asks the questions: Who’s driving? Who’s navigating? He goes on to say that in vibrant, vital congregations, it is Visionary Leadership who drives the car, with Relationship Experiences navigating the journey. These are both about walking by faith, not by sight or fright.

Programmatic Emphases are in the back seat behind Relationships to provide the structures for Relationships to flourish. Accountable Management is in the back seat behind Visionary Leadership, maintaining the administration needed to free Visionary Leadership to soar, to drive. These two walk by sight rather than by faith.

Bullard says, “Visionary Leadership is driving because it fuels the journey. Relationship Experiences is navigating because it flavors the journey. Programmatic Emphases and Accountable Management are in the back seat playing essential supporting roles. All four must be present in the vehicle for a successful and significant journey that ultimately leads to sacrifice in response to God’s leading. All four must be present and functioning well for true synergy to be expressed.” (The Synergy of Vision, Relationships, Program and Management)

We need to dream and vision, both as individual congregations and together as a diocese, in order to see where the Holy Spirit is leading. Doing the same things that may have worked in the past but are clearly not working now needs to change. Dwindling resources has affected many congregations and the diocese. Does this mean giving up some things? I don’t know the answer to that. In order to make way for renewal, change must happen. What that might be will become evident as you do the work you need to do.

Are you willing to participate?

Let us join with Mary, whose response to Gabriel’s, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” was, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” With God’s help, we can birth new life in our communities.

Let’s drive Bullard’s car together and see what happens!