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November 14, 2008

Comments

Austin

Cohesive strategy is always a plus. Of course, for my money, I kind of think of "policy" as a fall-back from "leadership."

Obviously, you need a leader whose strategy is well-calibrated for my statement to be true. But, if you've got a good leader, I'll wager a handbook becomes less and less essential to plotting a course.

Policy can always be a two edged sword. Sometimes it shields people from their own ineptitude. It can be a nice guard rail for people working out of their element or expertise.

Other times, however, guidance takes a back seat to bureaucracy--quashing initiative and discouraging vision-casting. Policy can just as easily be a prop under stagnant management and a roadblock to the capable as it can a boon to the novice; as much a cudgel in the hand of a tyrant as a shield to the well-intentioned. Like all human enterprise, it is only as good as those who implement it.

So, fundamentally, I would argue that sound leadership is the better counter-chaos alternative, if it can be had.

Jeff

So you're saying that if you have a good enough of a leader, you don't need policy written down?

Austin

If his team is 4 people, I'll venture a leader needs a manual less than one with 600 volunteers to mobilize. Ultimately, though, a manual is just a tool. Tools can be helpful. That doesn't change that they're just tools.

Written-down-policy is a per se secondary substitute for good leadership. Which would you rather have: a policy manual or a good leader?

Besides, my experience with "policy" has been that team members spend more time quibbling about flip-flops and haircuts than they do focusing on how best to challenge and engage their congregants in biblical worship. The team I worked with had a great manual--that didn't make the team great.

This is, of course, not to mention that policy manuals are almost never consistently applied or that their letter, rather than their spirit, is so oft rotely enforced.

Policy is wax in the hands of man. If the leader is good, policy will not corrupt his work. If the leader is not good, mere policy will not undo his shortcomings. Good policy can just as easily by used to work "chaos" as bad in the hands of a poor leader. Therefore, I say the manual's not the essential, the man is.

Jim Fleming

Austin,

Just so I am clear - I am not commenting in this post on the vital need for leadership. I am simply providing a sample of a tool we have used. I agree with you that no policy manual or procedure handbook can compensate for the absence of effective leadership. By the same token, effective leadership is well served by a manual like this when used wisely.

I have found it helpful to clearly spell things out on the front end, to plainly articulate what is expected of people. Isn't that what good leaders do? You may not agree with certain specifics of this particular handbook. I have NO PROBLEM with that. I am not providing a copy of this booklet because I think everyone should be using it. To everyone who leads worship, I say "Go write your own."

I think it is important for you to do so. If you cannot clearly articulate SOMETHING about where you are headed, how you are trying to get there, and what you are asking of the people you lead, then aren't you at risk of asking people to follow charisma without content?

Who would you rather follow? A) A dynamic leader who says, "We don't need a handbook - just follow my lead." B) Or an equally dynamic leader who says, "Here's our goal, our plan to reach it, and what I need from you. And you can quote me on it." Of the two, I enjoy following a leader who uses plan B.

Austin

I agree with pretty much everything you've said. Clearly, a leader who has a vision can articulate it--and one way he could do that is through a handbook. A cohesive articulation of vision is always a desirable thing.

All I'm saying is: 1) a handbook is just one of many options toward that purpose 2) just because you have a handbook doesn't mean a team will, in fact, follow the course it outlines.

And I would much rather follow a man who can TELL me about how he runs his team than one who refers me to a manual, especially one he only half observes. Nine times out of ten that man is articulating a vision he ACTUALLY has rather than paying lip service to one he's supposed to have. A manual can just as easily be an illusory signal of direction as not.

Jeff

I would suggest that a leader that writes down a policy he doesn't follow himself is not a good leader anyway. The policy doesn't make the leader, the leader makes the policy.
One good thing that I saw with policy is one of organization. I was the sound guy, so I could watch the creative dynamic of the team from a distance. And one thing I saw was that even if the leader had what he considered "understood policy," when he was in a position where he should have enforced that policy (sidenote: team members considered his policies to be suggestions rather than requirements when it was all in the leader's head and not written down), he was in "Worship mode" or "Practice mode" and wasn't equipped mentally to deal with the issue at hand. With the handbook, the instruction part of it was taken away so when the team got together for practice or worship, they could be about THAT business instead of having to deal with the policy boundaries being crossed.

Randy

I’ve never worked at any organization that didn’t have some kind of handbook and/or policy and procedure manual from which general expectations were communicated; at least some basic ground rules covering rules of conduct, dress code, attendance, etc. Of course, this does not ensure good leaders will follow, but it does help to establish an environment so when there are good leaders, they can get beyond the basics. If this is true in the corporate world, should we expect less in corporate worship? Besides, the only difference between the Christian leading worship and perhaps a non-Christian leading in the secular world is that one is a saved sinner and one is not. Either can be a good leader or otherwise, but both can benefit from some direction, and yes, correction, when necessary.

As far as the “quibbling about flip-flops and haircuts” thing, this may seem like a petty issue to some, but not all. For example, many people believe that it is disrespectful to come together corporately to worship when wearing hats or flip flops, or tank tops, or crazy hair, or ragged jeans, or other items that appear to draw attention to oneself rather than the one you come to worship. In other words, I guess the question becomes, “Can we be too casual for God?” Therefore, for those who are going to lead in worship, it is important to consider the values of everyone they plan to lead. If that means having a handbook to establish some basic guidelines as a starting point, then why not?

Randy

I’ve never worked at any organization that didn’t have some kind of handbook and/or policy and procedure manual from which general expectations were communicated; at least some basic ground rules covering rules of conduct, dress code, attendance, etc. Of course, this does not ensure good leaders will follow, but it does help to establish an environment so when there are good leaders, they can get beyond the basics. If this is true in the corporate world, should we expect less in corporate worship? Besides, the only difference between the Christian leading worship and perhaps a non-Christian leading in the secular world is that one is a saved sinner and one is not. Either can be a good leader or otherwise, but both can benefit from some direction, and yes, correction, when necessary.

As far as the “quibbling about flip-flops and haircuts” thing, this may seem like a petty issue to some, but not all. For example, many people believe that it is disrespectful to come together corporately to worship when wearing hats or flip flops, or tank tops, or crazy hair, or ragged jeans, or other items that appear to draw attention to oneself rather than the one you come to worship. In other words, I guess the question becomes, “Can we be too casual for God?” Therefore, for those who are going to lead in worship, it is important to consider the values of everyone they plan to lead. If that means having a handbook to establish some basic guidelines as a starting point, then why not?

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