Implications from the Congregation Life Cycle
[See all articles in this series HERE]
Visionary Leadership, Relationship Experiences, Programmatic Emphases, and Accountable Management individually are not enough. As individual qualities—or silos—they cannot sufficiently help a congregation be vital and vibrant during the next season of their life. It is only when they work together—become synergistic—that they can help a congregation soar with faith.
A congregation with only Visionary Leadership, may be clear about what their journey ought to be, but not making progress along the journey without Relationship Experiences, Programmatic Emphases, and Accountable Management to make the journey a reality. With only Relationship Experiences a congregation may be appropriately focused on a journey of good faith and perhaps good works, but does not have Programmatic Emphases to support and sustain it, and may get lost in huddling with one another as disciples without an outward vision that connects them missionally with God’s world.
When Programmatic Emphases dominate a congregation, then the congregation becomes one focused on programmatic success, and a belief that increasing budgets and bodies are sufficient to do what the Triune God requires of them. Accountable Management alone can make for a very efficient congregation that loses its soul, and moves from serving as an organism to serving as an organization, and a movement to a museum.
Imagine that the journey of your congregation—which I call a Spiritual Strategic Journey or an Experiential Missional Journey—could be characterized as a road trip in a luxury sports utility vehicle. Let’s say a Lexus SUV. [Many other types of SUV models could be chosen. A Lexus SUV implies for me the values and excellence of the journey we are discussing.] Then let’s suppose the four passengers in the vehicle are Visionary Leadership, Relationship Experiences, Programmatic Emphases, and Accountable Management.
Who’s driving? In vital and vibrant congregations, which I call FaithSoaring Churches, Visionary Leadership is driving. Who’s navigating? Relationship Experiences are navigating. Visionary Leadership and Relationship Experiences are about walking by faith rather than by sight in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 5:7. They are the true experiential organizing principles in the synergy of the four.
Programmatic Emphases are in the back seat behind Relationship Experiences providing the programs, ministries, and activities framework within which Relationship Experiences can best function. Accountable Management is in the back seat behind Visionary Leadership providing the administrative infrastructure to free Visionary Leadership to soar like the wind.
Programmatic Emphases and Accountable Management are essential in the synergy of the four organizing principles of a congregation’s life. At the same time they are about walking by sight rather than by faith. They are the true institutional organizing principles in the synergy of the four.
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 the four passengers can produce is essential to becoming and sustaining life as a vital and vibrant congregation. This means that not only is their presence essential, but where they are seated in the vehicle is non-negotiable for vitality and vibrancy. It is essential that Visionary Leadership and Relationship Experiences are in the front seat. It is essential that Programmatic Emphases and Accountable Management are in the back seat. Further, it is imperative that Accountable Management is on the left side behind Visionary Leadership. It is essential that Programmatic Emphases are on the right side behind Relationship Experiences.
The reality is that this ideal configuration that produces synergy is elusive for congregations. It is difficult to achieve. Once achieved it does not usually last more than seven years without intentional action to rebalance Visionary Leadership, Relationship Experiences, Programmatic Emphases, and Accountable Management. Without rebalancing, they will be out of balance, and they will significantly and negatively impact the journey of a congregation.
Next: Story and ‘Ship: The Keys to the Next Season of Your Congregation’s Life