If our churches are to move forward and stay contextually relevant, we must ask some simple questions of our organizations. Who are we? Why are we here? What does God require of us corporately? The field of organizational development and more specifically, Human Resource Management (HRM) and Strategic Planning (SP), can help us find the answers to some of these questions. Organizational Development is the practice of changing people and organizations for positive growth. HRM refers to the policies, practices and systems that influence behavior, attitudes and performance (Noe, Human Resource Management, 2002) and Strategic Planning comprises, planning, implementation and partnering (Ulrich, Human Resources Champion, 1997).
The process begins by answering who we are through articulating the mission of the local church in your specific context. We then articulate how our mission will be realized by clarifying the vision for the local church. Each area needs to be framed according to the context in which the church is called to serve. As these areas are formulated we find that the mission answers, who are we? The vision answers why are we here? And the matter of ensuring mission and vision alignment will define what does God require of us corporately.
HRM focuses on organizational behavior and leads organizations to have an enhanced self-awareness, where the local church organization can diagnose problems and determine solutions to enhance the participation or leadership within their groups. The local church can manage change and move efficiently through the stages of transition that happens within the local context. Finally HRM also equips the local church to predict group behavior and manage the dynamics of moving a church forward.
Over forty years there has been a shift in HRM. The church can learn critical lessons by understanding the shifts that have occurred. HRM has moved from being: functionally oriented to business oriented, internally focused to externally and customer-focused, reactive to proactive, and activity focused to solutions focused. As a result, managers of HRM have embraced dual roles of: operational and strategic, police and partner, qualitative and quantitative, and short and long term. HRM moves from a focused attention of what are we doing to what are we delivering?
At Bronx Bethany, we began this journey of embracing HRM seven years ago. After 36 years of ministry, the founding pastor retired. A new pastor was sought to lead the congregation. As you can imagine, a strong culture ensued after 36 years of ministry. Before efficient and effective change could happen we had to deal with the basic of understanding, who are we? Why are we here? And what does God require of us corporately?
Tackling those three questions resulted in the formulation of a mission and vision statement that was written and placed regularly before the local congregation to remind us of who and why. Then the challenge of self-awareness came as we began to study our culture. When we came in to a better understanding of the culture we were able to manage change by predicting the behavior of our local church and rather than manage reactive behavior we could predict and steer the process of change to move the church forward. As we have embraced the changes of HRM, we are learning to move beyond being functionally oriented to managing the church as a business unit that has both operational and strategic roles of management. We are moving forward as a missional church as we shift the focus from internal to external and customer-focused for our local and global contexts. We can predict group and organization dynamics, which allow us to move from reactive to proactive management and rather than being a busy activity focused congregation we are solutions focused. All that we do must serve a specific goal that reinforces mission and vision alignment.
Finally the HRM process is driven in part through strategic planning. Strategic planning identifies internal strengths and weaknesses of the local church while simultaneously identifying opportunities and threats that are resident to the church. Once this is accomplished strategic plans are formulated into specific action steps with the inclusions of timelines. It also includes the task of assessing training, compensation, appraisal and retirement of existing policies and practices. These steps can only work if the goals that are developed are measurable. As these elements of strategic planning are implemented the church moves forward together, both effectively and efficiently.