If you have never read any of Jim Collins’ books, you should take a look sometime and start with Good to Great. Collins writes insightfully and effectively about organizational health and leadership development. One of the things that he reflects on is the climate of uncertainty and overwhelming change brought on by technology, politics, and economics. If you think back 15 years ago and consider what has happened since, the destabilizing events – in the country, in the markets, in your work – have defied all expectations. Life, more than ever is uncertain, the future is unknown and we now live our lives in unprecedented change.
And the Church has to deal with it like everybody else. We’ve done a pretty good job of resisting change for a few centuries, but further resistance is only going to accelerate the patterns of demise and decline already seen in parishes and dioceses in nearly every part of the world.
Collins argues that companies, and I would argue churches as well, who navigate this type of world exceptionally well don’t merely react, they create. They don’t merely survive, they prevail. They don’t merely succeed, they thrive. They build great enterprises that can endure. Organizations and churches do not thrive on chaos, but they can thrive in it.
Setting performance benchmarks to drive consistent progress. It’s about concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms to stay on track. It’s not rocket science, any organization can do it, so why don’t more try?
Discipline. It is very uncomfortable to take an organization and get it focused on just a few things it can do well (just look at the average church bulletin) and even more difficult to maintain the focus. Keeping an unwavering commitment to high performance in difficult conditions takes discipline and so does not overreaching in good conditions.
Some people might believe that a world characterized by radical change and disruptive forces no longer favors those who engage in consistency. Yet the great irony is the opposite is the case. In an out of control environment consistency and focus give you control which you can use to succeed.
At Nativity we focus on the weekend, we just try and be the best we can be when it comes to our music, our message, and our ministry-service. Sure there are lots of temptations to do other things, and it is also difficult to maintain this commitment in challenging times. But over time, it has paid off. Our weekend Masses are usually standing room only and they continue to grow. Of course, we have to keep it fresh, and we have to keep taking risks and trying new things, but always within the discipline of our focus.
One of the things we say to church leaders as we travel across the country and around the world, is that you are not inevitably doomed to irrelevance and eventual death. You can create your own future. After all, Christ promised that his Church would not fail. Let’s be a part of that plan.