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  • Christine Wethman

Congregations Have Life Stages?

Updated: Feb 28

Birth? Youth? Midlife? Maturity? The value of understanding each cycle.


One of the most talked about subjects in our household is food. What are we going to eat? Where are we going to eat? When are we going to eat? What do you feel like eating? "I don't know, I asked you first."

When I picked up my daughters from school after a day on the job, one of them would invariably ask, "What are we having for dinner?" That was not one of my favorite questions. I imagine now what their response might have been if my answer -- every single time -- would have been, "Milk. We're having milk." Necessary, but not

sufficient for their health.

1 Peter 2:2

I knew they needed more as they matured.

Effective leaders have learned to recognize the life cycle that an organization or program is going through. They have devoted time and effort to understand the types of problems and opportunities they are facing. This understanding blesses them with a sense of perspective and helps them discern how to respond...lest they react.

Impulsivity marks certain life-styles. Infancy, childhood and early teenage phases -- marked by rapid growth -- often make reactive decisions based on what is going on around them. New plants or startup congregations are like this, too. Sometimes, doing whatever is necessary to prevent failure. That can result in highly reactive, seat-of-the pants decisions. What marks this phase is the reluctance to take time to slow down and plan.


As time goes on and organizations and people mature, they begin to understand, often with the assistance of a coach or mentor, more about the world and themselves. Wisdom sees them through many challenges. Perseverance and patience, once in short supply, becomes more plentiful. Planning, discipline, and self-awareness serve as windows to discover and discern God's calling for whatever stage of life we're in. Remembering all the time that phase of the cycle leads to another and that our needs at birth differ drastically those of midlife.


Taking the time to review these cycles would be beneficial for all congregational leaders. No, let me re-state that. To survive well into the future, leaders and congregations must be able to identify their life-phase and the type of leadership it requires. Let's take a look...


Organizational Life Cycles and Corresponding Typical Features

Birth

Youth

Midlife

Maturity

Size

small

medium

large

very large

Bureaucratic

Nonbureaucratic

Prebureaucratic

Bureaucratic

Very Bureaucratic

Division of Labor

Overlapping tasks

Some departments

Many Departments

Extensive, with small jobs and many descriptions

Centralization

One-person rule

Two leaders rule

Two Department heads

Top-management heavy



...to be continued


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