“master planner” to “environmentalist”

It would do us well to remember that our job is to help people with their lives rather than build infrastructures that help keep institutions alive. (pg. 27)

orgcommcover.jpgIn my last post I discussed this quote by Joe Myers, the author of Organic Community. One big difference between the organization of traditional organizations and those oriented toward an organic outlook is this fact that, after awhile, organizations and institutions begin focusing on self-preservation rather than the purpose for which they were created.

In our context, working to build a “healthy church” is both important and noble. However, we cannot forget that a “healthy church” is comprised of healthy people. With few exceptions, when the health of individuals is attended to, the health of the entire organization is improved. Within the Christian community there is typically no common good that isn’t also good for the individual person. The typical organization of churches sometimes fights against this.

In order to respond to this reality Joe Myers suggests that church leaders move from a Master Planner approach to an Environmentalist approach. Put simply, a master plan creates community through programming. Organic order creates community through environment.

Here are some descriptions of the master plan approach:

Master plans intend to control the future. Master plans provide specific answers to future questions that have not yet been asked–that may never be asked. A master plan does not allow for flexibility, uncertainty, or serendipity–ingredients of the “aha” moment. (28)

Now it it important to note that planning itself is not bad. Nor is Myers advocating chaos over against master planning. However, he does draw attention to the fact that a church, one of the most “human” of all organizations, requires a form of future orientation that is more flexible than most master plans allow. Wrong questions are asked and the direction of organizations/churches are set that don’t reflect the reality of “life on the ground”.

On the other hand, an environmentalist approach asks a different kind of question:

When planning a new initiative I prefer to ask, “What are we hoping for?” Your answer to this question, whatever it might be, will serve as an organic guide. Most likely, the answer will allow enough flexibility to deal with future questions as they emerge and the guiding principles to answer those questions more effectively. (32)

An approach to building up a church community that is based on organic order does not eschew organization, planning or order. It is not an anything goes approach. However, it does require flexibility from its participants in order that the right questions can be asked and answered at the right time. This allows for the changes that occur both within individuals and within the community at large.

From this perspective the goal is to move from a programmer (a master planner) to an environmentalist (one who follows the principles of organic order to create and shape environments). (34) Myers outlines several different principles to make this happen. I’ll list and begin discussing these in my next post.

For now, let’s ask one another what kind of questions should we be asking ourselves about our future as a community?

Also, what do you think about the difference between these two questions?

1) Where are we headed?  versus 2) What are we hoping for?


4 thoughts on ““master planner” to “environmentalist”

  1. Wow! That sounds like a great book! I’m going to get Doug to read your post and then see if we can take a stab at answering your questions. He is my other brain!

  2. This is a great idea. We should implement this program and start mass marketing it. Place ads in newspaper, radio and TV. Of course we will have to get things polished up for the worship service what with all the new people we will be bringing in, things will have to look perfect and professional. I bet with a big push we could at least double the size of the church by this time next year! Obviously, with all of the advertising we will have to start a giving campaign as well.

    Am I understanding this correctly? 😉

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