Resources to grow as Disciples
How you answer this question can help you clarify whether you are currently more focused on technical or adaptive challenges. Technical changes mean doing what you are currently doing better. It means improving your skills so you are the best you can be at whatever it is you are doing. Technical changes are not necessarily easy and are often very important. For instance, you want your airplane pilot to have great technical knowledge and to constantly be improving his or her skills through training and experience if they are flying your plane. But, the steps to successfully landing the plane are well known because they are proven and can be mastered. However, many of the challenges and changes we face today and in the future, require more than incorporating new technical skills. Doing what you are currently doing, only better, isn’t enough. You can’t just learn to lead. You need to make adaptive changes and this means thinking differently.
“We have witnessed the transition from physical labor to mind work as the dominate employee activity. Now we live in a global economy characterized by rapid change, accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs, and an unprecedented level of competitiveness. These developments create demand for higher levels of education and training than were required of previous generations. Specifically these developments ask for a greater capacity for innovation, self-management, personal responsibility, and self-direction.” (Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey)
Adaptive change is required of everyone, not just top leaders. You see this in every enterprise including your own congregation. From senior pastor to youth minister to congregational secretary and a whole host of volunteer leaders, there is a higher level of knowledge and skill needed but also a greater passion for on-going learning and discovery. It is through this learning and discovery, through innovation, risk-taking, exploration, and pilot projects, that adaptive challenges are identified. Adaptive challenges push us to think beyond our current patterns of behavior, outside our boxes and current ministries. This is leading to learn.
One example is Sunday School. The questions I am most often asked typically go something like this: “How can we resurrect Sunday School?” or “How can we keep our children from being so bored at church?” We live in a time where a new curriculum (technical solution) is not the answer. In fact, asking how to improve Sunday School is not even the right question. According to Einstein, identifying the problem is as important as the solution. So what is the question? As Christian leaders, we are invited into this struggle; we are invited to think differently. Embracing the questions, really thinking “both-and” (technical and adaptive) rather than “either-or” will help.
We’ll come back to the question of Sunday School next week but for now as you enter into Lent, I encourage you to pay attention to your mental frames. Why are you thinking about things the way you are thinking right now? Are there other ways to frame the question? Let’s use this season of intentional prayer to open our heart, soul, mind, and body to a bigger view of God as we live in a fast-changing world.