[image by jblyberg]

As I mentioned yesterday, I thought it might be a good idea to explore more thoroughly the “online characteristics” that come out of Gary Hamel’s article, The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500.

Now, anytime we try to generalize things about the Church…it is often just that. A generalization. Lots of churches may exhibit these qualities, and many churches don’t. But let’s start the conversation and see what happens.

So let’s begin with the first characteristic:

  1. All ideas compete on an equal footing–On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

Now, if you have spent anytime in the Church…on staff, volunteering, or just attending, this becomes pretty obvious, pretty quickly. Not all ideas compete on equal footing, and often many ideas aren’t even allowed to enter the conversation. Where I have often seen this played out is in the ideas between staff/church members of different “ranking”, i.e. ordained vs. non-ordained, associate vs. executive, senior pastor vs. youth pastor, volunteer vs. staff, etc. Though this is not to become a versus situation, it often breaks down into that when ideas are not allowed to be shared and considered equally among all staff members, volunteers and attending members.

I have struggled a lot in my time within the PCUSA denomination the last 8 years. I have intentionally chosen not to be ordained, but that automatically at times leaves me out of the conversation with those who are ordained. It has often been a place where ideas don’t, and can’t compete on equal footing. Not only can ordination become a roadblock, but so can seniority, gender, age, education, etc. This just isn’t typical in mainline denominations, but it’s pretty typical in non-denominational Bible churches as well.

But one thing the Church needs to understand is that it makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE to the younger generations that all ideas can’t be encouraged, shared, and taken very seriously. The ideas coming from the junior high ministry (whether student or staff) are just as important and valuable as those on the senior staff and elder boards. Why? While pastors, deacons and elders are in rooms sharing ideas, often excluding others, younger generations are online changing the world. Starting groups, meeting in person, and transforming the communities around them.

So why would they want to come to Church and participate, when those in leadership don’t allow them to actually participate. Participation for the younger generations doesn’t meet just kowtowing to senior leadership, but actually contributing and participating in not only the brainstorming and decision making process, but in carrying it out also.

For the younger generations, the Church can often just be seen as “red tape.” Nothing is more discouraging than a person bringing a great idea to senior leadership, and having that idea shut down (if it’s even heard) as it navigates it’s way through the CEO/Business Management models that most churches operate from. Pretty soon, these people just take their ideas online where there is no “red tape”, and start changing the world…without the Church.

So how can you…how can the Church encourage an environment where all ideas compete on equal footing?

One of the things we attempted at my last church (Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles) was Blue Sky/storyboarding meetings, which was basically an adoption of Disney’s Imagineering develops new rides. I’ve heard different rules for the meetings, but the basic idea is that all ideas are to be shared, and there is no such thing as a bad idea. When all ideas are shared, eventually the best ones will naturally rise to the top…but at least they have the opportunity to be shared and discussed in an open environment which has often not the been the experience of many people in the Church.

What are some practical things that can be done in the Church to encourage this process?