Origins’ Elders recently met to discuss the future of Origins Community and finalize a few outstanding, strategic items that will help solidify our community culture over the long haul. By the end of the meeting, we were all moved by the amount of unity, peace and joy we felt as, after many months of discussion, we came to conclusions regarding our strategic approach to the next three years.
The following words were used to begin our conversation. We thought you might want to read them – we get pretty excited when we think about what Origins is and what it will be.
Origins Community: Early Stages of Growth – from Seed to Sapling
Three year plans can be helpful as long as they are not the extent of leadership’s vision and as long as the near-term plans acknowledge and adhere to their place in the overall picture. So, before I share about what I’d like to see in the next three years, let me quickly paint a picture (if only using broad stokes) of what I hope Origins looks like in forty years – when my grandkids will enjoy it.
Origins as a Forty-Year-Old Tree
In forty years, Origins will be a community of believers who will have the benefit of a rich and distinct Christian culture established by the ordinary acts of people who chose to express their faith by being interested, exploring and engaged in the lives of the people right in front of them. They will be a people who are comfortable with, and fully embrace, the autonomy afforded them by their participation in Origins’ long established decentralized community. Instead of looking to an organization or particular leader for direction or permission, they will have long since taken on their personal responsibility to seek the living God and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by being images and conduits of their creator.
They will believe that they are uniquely qualified and commissioned by God to participate in, cultivate and serve the communities in which they live. They will be a people known by their open-handed generosity, graciousness, hospitality and commitment to serve those around them. They will be geographically diverse, promoting Origins’ culture in pockets throughout the world. And while the how-tos and mechanisms may vary from one location to the next, their DNA won’t. It will prod them to be a people more personally involved and actively engaged in addressing the needs of their communities through their faith.
Who Can Argue with That?
It would seem unlikely that many people would have a problem with the culture just described, but hidden in its language are ideas that run counter to many commonly accepted church community practices. There aren’t many churches attempting to foster a decentralized community or encouraging autonomy. Quite the opposite, many churches promote centralized activities and ask their constituents to deploy the organization’s solutions for their community, instead of encouraging and assisting people to create and develop their own. The idea tends to be, “We know what’s best; help us do it,” instead of, “You know what’s best; how can we help you do it?”
To see the culture described in the previous section established will require resolve and patience, because it calls us out of spaces we might be comfortable with. It will take time and will be realized in seasons.
How We Need to Be
Micro-cultures don’t turn into macro-cultures overnight, because culture isn’t sold in a moment like a product; it’s shared, then challenged, then practiced like an idea. It’s not the sort of thing you have, it’s the sort of thing you’re continually becoming. So when we think about how to get from where we are today, as more of a seed, and think about one day being that 40-year-old tree, the focus isn’t, “what we need to do,” but rather, “how we need to be.”
We Need to Be Consistent
We have to remain consistent with our DNA – it isn’t the sort of thing you can, or should attempt to, change. If we want to promote a decentralized community and autonomy, we have to stay consistent with these stances in our teaching and in our structure. When we practice giving, prayer, serving and teaching, it should be done in a way that comes from our people, not the organization, and should foster the growth of our people, not the organization.
The organization itself should exist only to facilitate a healthy environment for the culture to grow. In this way, the organization doesn’t seek to grow its authority or assets. Rather, it releases authority when possible and manages its assets to have a consistent relationship with the overall culture – managing its assets to never be a burden on the growth of the culture and not relying on the culture to grow for its own preservation.
We Have to Love the Process
As we attempt to measure the growth of an organization like this we will have to stay focused on, and develop ways to measure, our adherence to our values and unique practices rather than attempting to evaluate quantitative measurements associated with specific outcomes. Certainly, quantitative metrics are helpful when measuring outcomes, but qualitative metrics are required when evaluating the growth of cultures. Cultures aren’t deemed successful based on increasing numbers, they are successful when they preserve their unique identity over the long haul.
When we love what we do and who we are, instead of what it might give us or produce, it protects us from failure. We never get to a point where we might be tempted to say, “Well, we haven’t achieved this or that, so it’s time to quit.” Instead, if we love the process – our way of life – then we can’t fail. Loving the process instead of the outcomes empowers us to live full lives with full hearts; we’re able to share from the abundance of our lives instead of constantly longing for the next thing because we’re content, encouraged and fueled by the sort of thing we are, not by what we may be capable of accomplishing.
Seed to Sapling – The Next Three Years
Over the next three years, we need to demonstrate consistency in our approach to promote decentralization and autonomy as we ask people to be interested, exploring and engaged in the lives of those around them. We also have to gauge our success by our commitment to the process, rather than certain outcomes. Currently, our transition from one sort of thing to another will require us to take specific stances in our approach to (1) structure and (2) finances.
Origins as an organization exists to promote, facilitate and resource what Origins as a people are doing in their local spaces. We help people do what’s best in and for their spaces instead of telling them or showing them what’s best for their spaces. As such, we do not promote top-down leadership practices and are not staffed to provide them. From the ground up, we are governed by a plurality of leaders and are staffed to assist rather than direct.
Over the past year, we have made significant progress toward changing people’s understanding of what Origins exists to do, but in the coming years we must remain consistent with this posture to firmly root it and strengthen it.
One of the primary ways we can demonstrate our commitment to leadership structures as described above is to adjust our bylaws to solidify governance of a plurality of elders, further define the scope and role of Origins’ staff, and the role and authority of those participating in Origins’ culture.
Currently, we’ve been operating in a way where people give to the organization and we choose what good things to give to and decide how best to use the offerings provided. To promote decentralization and autonomy, we need to make a significant shift in our financial approach, (1) allowing people to give through the organization to the things that they see as good in their own communities and (2) we need to manage our assets in a way that promotes the organization’s sustainability.
Dec. 10, 2015