ENGAGE – ENCOURAGE – EQUIP
What does it mean to live in a VUCA world? How do you like living in a VUCA world? Who do you want with you in a VUCA world? What in the heck is a VUCA world?
The Alban Institute, as a publishing and consulting group, is gone. But several of the Alban consultants we came to know and respect have formed other consulting groups over the last couple of years. One of those groups is the Congregational Consulting Group. They publish regular articles (one of those – “But Is It Still a Church?” – I linked to our presbytery Facebook page this last week).
Lawrence Peers published a different article Sept 5, entitled “It’s Crazy Out There: Practices for Religious Leaders.” In that article, he declares that we do, indeed, already live in a VUCA world (a phrase he borrowed from Harvard Business Review). We live in a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity – VUCA! The Harvard Business Review suggests that, if remembering what VUCA stands for is too hard, you simply substitute “Hey, it’s crazy out there!” And futurists declare with a high degree of certainty that VUCA is not going away anytime soon.
Peers has a number of suggestions for religious leaders who would dare to embrace and engage these “crazy” times head-on (emphasis added):
- Resist escaping to the familiar
- Linger a little longer in not knowing
- Move from explanation to exploration
- Ask the right questions before acting
- Recognize reactive tendencies
- Distinguish creative competencies from reactive tendencies
Each or all of these suggestions would be enough for an afternoon’s conversation (or even a guest speaker for a future presbytery meeting). But that is not my purpose today. However, Peers offers some final advice – in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we need to lead consciously. He even offers guidelines for “not knowing” (emphasis added):
- Am I making space for others to explore their similarities and differences?
- Am I allocating enough time so that exploration rather than mere explanation can occur?
- Am I filling up the space with my own ideas, reassurances, and brilliant suggestions?
- Do I have ways of covering up anxious feelings in myself or others? What are they?
- Am I willing to let myself and others go to [the] edge of our own knowing? Am I willing to allow space for the Spirit to reveal something new and to change us?
All of this is well and good – and, as I said, could be an interesting conversation for the presbytery and its congregations to have. But I will suggest it’s already almost too late! We have been living in a VUCA world for years already. And Peers’ advice would have been nice before we wandered down this path. (I brought along a few copies of Peers’ article, for those who were trying to write all of that down.)
This presbytery is in the midst of substantial change! The Council is working on a Futuring exercise which we will discuss more fully at the December presbytery meeting – it will focus on our ability to claim a vision of a presbytery in mission, doing mission, and helping congregations do the same. This will have major implications for our allocation of the presbytery’s resources – both financial and personnel.
The Committee on Ministry is working on recreating itself to do the basic work of networking, while at the same time creating specifically trained teams of people to work on vacancies, congregational vitality, leadership development, pastoral care, and conflict resolution. They see healthy congregations and healthy congregational leaders as the key to an effective presbytery.
And, in the midst of it all, we will be changing out the familiarity of our current staff for new people, new models, and new ideas. The Stated Clerk Search Committee will is in the midst of their search and plan to have a nominee at our December meeting. Then, they will outline the process for transition in the office of General Presbyter, as I will be retiring at the end of January of 2019.
The number of changes, the degree to which we have been examining who we are and what we might be, have not been accidental. Though today marks the official announcement of my pending retirement, the Council has known of my plans for over a year because we wanted to allow for a clear transition process and, more importantly, the time to ask some of the questions Lawrence Peers has suggested. Valerie Young, our Synod Leader and Stated Clerk, is here today, not to tell us what to do, but to provide counsel and resources when we ask. Our Presbytery Council and Personnel Work Group have already found her to be a wise and welcome presence.
It’s still almost a year and a half away, but you will see from the Personnel report that we have much left to do. When that time comes, my family and I will have been here almost 20 years. It has been a rich and rewarding time for us. But there are even better times ahead – for you and for me. Now let’s get to work!