The last few days have been very quiet aound our part of West London. Suddenly thousands of people have become fans of a volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull, (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl - apparently!). Let's hear it for lava that's what I say. But not all appreciate the quiet - some people I oevrheard on the bus today were saying that they found it all a bit too quiet and 'spooky'. They have got used to the having the equivalent of the M25 over their heads. Without it things are not normal and 'as they should be'.
This reminded me of the definition of 'culture' as ' the way we do things round here' usually expressed in terms of 'that's not the way we do things round here' or 'we've not done it like that before'. Leaders ignore culture at their peril and also the fact that it is the 'big issue' in terms of change and development. The way we do things round here is not just about the obvious things - work practices, traditions and customs but the less obvious and tangible ways such as attitudes, behavioural and relational patterns.
I speak form personal experience as a leader who has had a measure of 'success' in helping organisations to change and move on, as well as experiencing the flip side of not having much apparent and immediately obvious success at all! I am not just speaking of church but also my experience in helping to shape the future development of a Higher Education institution in the West Country. Church, business, college or family - all have ways of 'doing things round here'.
Lessons learnt aplenty. Some contexts are ready for change and have enough of a critical mass of people to embrace some of the hard choices and hold on to a vision during the hard times. This doesn't mean that compromises aren't needed or time scales revised - after all we are dealing with people and the way they have done things sometimes for generations. But it is vital to hold onto the vision that will enable an organisation to be sustainable, grow and respond to the challenges of what are very fast- moving and culturally changing times. For churches the change of religious and social contexts are enormous and have far reaching implications - a bit of tweaking here and a new service there are simply not enough.
From the Church of Englands perspective I think there are two key challenges:
To shape leaders who deeply rooted in God in Jesus and understand the need to re-shape church culture to serve a developing Post Christian context and have been given training and vision to do this courageously, corporately and creatively. They will also need the support, mentoring and back up from those in 'management' and who provide resourcing at Diocesan level.
Please let me have your thoughts about this.