Sunday, 22 March 2009

Was Jesus a poor manager?

On Upside Down Heaven Hans Uli has been reflecting about whether Jesus was a poor manager:
The recent issue of Neue Wege - Beiträge zu Religion und Sozialismus ... features an interview Ina Praetorius did with Alphonse-Marie Bitulu from Kinshasa, who wrote a book entitled "Jésus, le mauvais gestionnaire" - Jesus, the incapable manager. The title and approach intrigue me. It points to a discrepancy of an ever more managed church and christian or religious service which at the same time often seems to drown in dilettantism and mismanagement. But the myth that good (today meaning results-based) management automatically yields good results grows steadily and threatens to suffocate true vision, creativity and authentic care for each other.
This set me thinking because one of the issues we're trying to tackle in an upcoming Ecumenical Review is trying to get churches which are involved in health care provision to take management more seriously rather than seeing it as a universally bad thing.
The more I think about management the more I think that what we refer to disparagingly as management is actually bad management. Alot of what is referred to as management in the church is often decontextualised quick fix ideas imported from a very different context. Yet context is one of the things that good management and leadership should take seriously.
In a conversation last year with Barbara Oxley who works in training educational leaders in the UK she said something that really struck me - "Leaders have to care about the people they are leading".
Caring should be an area that churches and non-governmental organisations are good at, yet churches and church organisations sometimes suffer from worse leadership and management problems than private companies.
Hans-Uli is right that wedding ourselves to a facile results based, bean-counting management approach can stifle creativity. The failure of some of these so-called management approaches in churches may actually mean that it will be difficult to look at management as a theological issue with enormous potential for the churches. There is also another side to problems with management in churches and that is the very defensive way churches can react to issues of accountability.
The private, public, voluntary and faith-based sectors all need good management. Part of the task of effective, good and caring managers is to lead staff in a way that encourages accountability and creativity and chanels them for the overall good of the organisations.
Anyway reading Hans-Uli was also a wake up call to me to start writing my diploma paper.
It also made me think about the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke's gospel which includes this:
And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

1 Comment:

Hansuli John Gerber said...

Thanks Jane, I like your reflections here. Somehow while reading your post I remembered something I think Ernst Jandl or another German poet was writing: Ich hatte schlechte Lehrer - das war eine gute Schule.

I guess what makes today's management approaches poor is the lack of recognition and room for organic processes. They get aborted, cut short, and what by nature is organic gets organized mechanically, twisting everybody's arms, hearts and minds.