News Archives



When Pastors Face Dysfunction: Leading Change for Congregational Health by Priscilla Hammond

Dr. Priscilla Hammond teaches Organizational Change Management to graduate business students. As an ordained minister, she believes that the church is the organization that most needs to understand and lead change. This series will help Christian leaders to better understand and apply organizational change theory to their contexts.

How do we know when an organization isn’t healthy?

What symptoms cue people inside and outside an organization that systemic dysfunction is occurring? Patrick Lencioni identified five dysfunctions of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. At what point do these dysfunctions move an organization beyond the capacity to change the habits that have hindered it to the degree it can no longer pursue its raison d’être?

If individuals need to exercise and keep a balanced diet for optimal health, organizations need to exercise management discipline and keep a balanced scorecard. Kaplan and Norton wrote a business best seller in 1996 that laid out the balanced scorecard concept. In its most recent form, it organizes business goals into four quadrants of organizational performance: financial, customer/stakeholder, internal process, and organizational capacity (originally called learning and growth). Often organizations focus on numbers and customer satisfaction and ignore internal capacity and learning and growth, to the detriment of long-term success. (For a quick business overview on the balanced scorecard framework, watch here.)

The capacity of any organization to structure itself for effective ministry and growth – so that the next generation continues to feel its influence – depends on internal processes and organizational capacity. An organization can focus on internal processes by evaluating their services to ensure that they are both efficient and continuously improving. Breakthrough performance requires focus on organizational capacity, which includes human resources, infrastructure, technology, and culture.

In the church, it’s tempting to focus on numerical growth and congregant satisfaction as indicators of health. It’s even tempting to spiritualize this by baptizing it in terms of the Great Commission or spiritual virtues. But as anyone who has ever attempted to change their diet knows, the scale and happiness are sometimes at odds with each other. When we get out of balance, we’re unable to stay on mission. Exercising our internal capacity and implementing new processes can energize the congregation and have the side-effect of growing the church. When an organization is functioning well and balanced, it can regain its missional focus, but effective change cannot occur in organizations that do not have a balanced perspective.

Let’s not wait until critical symptoms emerge that indicate the organization is dysfunctional and unable to pursue its mission. Let’s discover where the issues are and make adjustments now. In this series, I will discuss some of the most important elements leaders must apply to influence effective organizational change, including decision-making, trust, perseverance, inspiration, and positivity.