Working At Cross-Purposes


By Renee Ruchotzke

Your mission is what is hanging on the wall, Your system is what is happening down the hall. —Andy Stanley, North Point Ministries

Sometimes leaders have an "aha" moment where they realize that they have been doing (or avoiding doing) something that is working at cross-purposes with the purpose or mission of their organization This happened a few years ago with the coach of Kent State University's basketball team, Rob Senderoff. He noticed that his team members were playing more cohesively—e.g. there were more assists—on the road than they were at home. He decided not to post the players' individual points on the scoreboard this past Saturday in the televised game with their just-down-the-road rival--the University of Akron.

Senderoff explained, "We want to make sure our guys are focused only on how many points we have as a team and not on how many points they have individually."

Asking players to be team players (e.g. to pass the ball when their teammate has a better potential shot) while rewarding them for shooting the ball themselves is a great example of how a leader was rewarding a behavior that worked against the behavior he really wanted. What you pay attention to tends to grow. I might even suggest that he should post the numbers of "assists" for each player to encourage teamwork.

It is important for congregational leaders--on a regular, systematic basis--to take stock of how their church is living into its mission:

  • If you want to serve young families, pay attention to how many families are coming to intergenerational worship. Notice how people respond to baby noises during worship. Look for smiles when children head into the classroom.
  • If you want to serve young adults, notice if what kinds of refreshments they gravitate toward. Take stock of their interests and activities.
  • If you are focusing on a culture of stewardship, pay attention to the body language of the ushers and the people in the pews during the offering. Share how your church is being a good steward in the neighborhood and community, and with the annual program fund of the UUA.
  • If you are encouraging spiritual growth, what kind of programs do you offer? Are there opportunities to go deep? How are the programs Unitarian Universalist? Are there ways to serve in your congregation that feed members' spiritual hunger?
  • Are you using your mission to prune programs that no longer serve a meaningful purpose? Do you keep track of attendance and have the participants give feedback using some sort of assessment tool?

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

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