by Samuel Rowen
The way people respond to crises differs from individual to individual.
The way people respond to crises differs from individual to individual. For some a crisis situation is to be avoided at all costs. Others find it a time of challenge and actually find their decision-making abilities enhanced. Stuart Slatter ("Crisis and Management: The Impact of Crisis on Managerial Behavior," Current, November 1984/No. 267) says, "When poor management is a major causal factor of a firm’s financial decline, as it invariably is, case studies clearly show that the capacity of managers to cope with a growing crisis is severely impaired."
Crisis situations do not ordinarily occur overnight. Slatter identifies four stages of crisis development.
Hidden Crisis. In the first stage, the manager or management group is unaware of the crisis. Typically, management will be complacent about its ability to maintain or improve itself.
Crisis Denial. The second stage is when management becomes aware that potentially there are some serious problems. The tendency here is to look for reasons that will help to "explain the crisis away." Slatter says that there are basically two arguments heard at this stage. The first is that the signs of the crisis can be explained by the organization’s attempt to bring about change. The second argument is that the difficulty is due to environmental pressures beyond the capacity of the organization to control. "Optimism is still the prevailing management rhetoric. Managers often sincerely believe they are still on the correct path, that their overall strategy is correct, and that any problems are transient in nature."
Organizational Disintegration. In the third stage of crisis development, management now recognizes that a crisis exists and that it is necessary to take some action. This is the time of great stress and the quality of management decisions deteriorates. Failure to act during a crisis seldom, if ever, improves a situation. Delay may help in the solution, but inaction seldom helps. The actions during this stage seldom help, except to temporarily slow down the process. Decision-making groups tend to shrink during this stage. As the groups become small, the tendency is to gather the decision makers who will support the conventional wisdom of the organization.
Organizational Collapse. By the time that stage four is in force, it becomes apparent that the organization has been following faulty advice. The credibility of the managers is seriously questioned at this time. The reasoning is that if the decision-makers were any good they would have taken action at stages one and two. Slatter says that the processes of disintegration include these:
(1) There is a decrease in decision-making behavior and more general discussion of the need to make decisions.
(2) Commitment to organizational goals declines and individual managers become more self-oriented.
(3) The budget cuts and reorganization of stage three cause power struggles that undermine cooperation and cause top management to centralize control even further.
(4) Expectations of failure grow, making failure more likely.
(5) The most able people leave, so that the average level of competence falls.
In order for the organization to turn around, it is necessary for it to be "reprogrammed." Sometimes the period of disintegration actually stimulates the period of relearning. Slatter suggests that this period of turning around includes some very radical steps. Managers must:
(1) Lose confidence in their old leaders before they will listen to new leaders.
(2) Abandon their old objectives before they will adopt new ones.
(3) Reject their perceptual filters before they will notice events they previously overlooked.
(4) See that their old methods do not work before they will invest in and adopt new methods.
"The problem of organizational unlearning is important because it relates to managerial judgment, and judgment is a key ingredient in the decision making process."
During the last 30 years in evangelical missions there have been a succession of emphases-church-mission relationships, evangelism-in-depth, church growth, theological education by extension, and so on. Now we are confronted with the emphasis on "unreached peoples." Each of the emphases required to some degree a reorganization of our existing institutions. The emphasis on "unreached peoples," however, shakes us to the very foundation of our organizations. It is forcing us to evaluate the priorities that affect the entirety of our mission structures.
If this is God’s moment in history for this "reprogramming," then we should listen carefully to the voices we are hearing. Some of this will occur through the disintegration of our organization. This is not bad, if it leads to involvement in God’s future in the world. This approach will mean much pain and disillusionment on the part of some. For others, a sensitivity to what God is doing in the world will permit the redirection of energy to move ahead creatively.
IS ADULT EDUCATION ONLY A FAD?
Education Newsletter (World Council of Churches, No. 3, 1984) has committed its entire issue to the theme of adult basic education. Recently, I heard the dean of a new seminary say that it is necessary to articulate clearly a philosophy of adult education before any curriculum plans are made. The theme of adult education was on the agenda of the meeting of the Personnel Committee of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association in December, 1984. Is all this interest a fad, or is there something critical that needs to be understood?
Adult basic education is not equal to adult education in general. The educational principles are essentially the same. The "basic" dimension is closely related to basic educational needs like literacy, health, and so on. What is common in the discussions on adult education is the idea of participation. Concepts such as "assisting" and "helping" have little place in the thinking of adult educators. Anything that has the idea of a unilateral relationship, where the one who assists is the subject and the learner remains passive, is rejected.
Ten theses on adult education and development are proposed. If one broadens the concept of development from simply economic development to human, spiritual, and educational development, all the theses are relevant. The concern for the development of leadership for the church is especially relevant. A little translation of the following theses can locate these principles into any area of developmental concern.
(1) Adult education should be directly related to the needs of the people concerned, so that they may themselves determine on what themes their training should be based.
(2) Each community must define its educational objectives and be responsible for its own training. It is therefore necessary that it participate actively in the process of discovering its basic needs and subsequently organize the educational activities that aim at meeting these needs.
(3) Educational activities are specific to particular communities, resulting in great diversity. This is why one cannot speak about "models" with regard to adult education.
(4) Literacy education is only one of the activities in the field of adult education. It should be undertaken only when the people feel it to be a basic need.
(5) As adult education and literacy education must respond to the basic needs of the community, and as these needs can be different, these activities should be incorporated within the framework of a project dealing not only with education, but also with health, production, food, social organization, and so on. For this reason, such a project should be at the same time integrated, integrating, and integral.
(6) Education must aim at total integration in the social and cultural structure of the group it serves.
(7) In a world where cultural exchanges are a historical reality, the culture of the social group should grow stronger, absorbing the benefits of other cultures through dialogue.
(8) In an essentially oral culture, education should take into account the content and means of transmission of this culture. It would be wrong, therefore, to give preference to written expression over oral expression. It is essential to recognize and promote the reciprocal enrichment of the two expressions.
(9) Animators (facilitators) should belong to the community and be elected by the community for this task. They must take part in the daily life of the people.
(10) In evaluating the education process, not only linguistic or theoretical knowledge results should be taken into account, but rather the progress obtained in the daily life of the community where the process is underway.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
This theme has become popular to call individuals to action right now. An insurance company used it several years ago to motivate people to realize that now is the time to buy life insurance. The phrase, however, takes on a slightly different meaning in the quote from Brian Horrigan (in "Yesterday’s Predictions: The Way the Future Was," by Madeline Jacobs, The Futurist, February, 1985) Horrigan says, "The future isn’t really about the future at all. It’s about our desires to project into the future our present and past. Looking at the objects in this way, the future provides a bridge to the past by shedding light on earlier attitudes and values."
The 20th century history of war, depression, and ecological disasters has destroyed the optimism of the 19th century. No longer are people confident that the future will be better than the present. Technology is not going to bring in any kind of utopia. Henry Steele Commager notes that the basic ethos of the American people is future oriented. He observes, however, that the present generation may be the first that believes the future will not be better for their children.
Jacobs notes that "most people in medieval and Renaissance Europe saw only a ceaseless cycle of drudgery, disease and death. . . . Then came a rush of advances in science engineering, agriculture, and medicine. . . . For the first time, the average person could imagine a better life, and these possibilities inspired speculation about what the future might be like." The number of devotees to this kind of optimism is diminishing rapidly.
A wartime survey of auto dealers found that one out of three planned to sell aircraft after the war. This was simply a projection into the future of the things desired from the present. Jacobs concludes, "Past prophecies and predictions reinforce the notion that the future cannot really be predicted with any degree of accuracy.
Much work on the future of the world mission of the church has been done. Have we simply taken our lead from the conceptualizations of secular futurists, or is there an adequate theological rationale not available to the secularist? Possibly we may be limited to what Ted Ward has called the "intermediate future." Since the biblical drama of redemption is eschatalogical from start to finish, we cannot be indifferent to the future goals of the Missio Dei. Nevertheless, we need to balance it with the Lord’s words of "take no thought for tomorrow." It is the dynamic tension between these two poles that keeps futuristic deliberations from becoming inactivity in the present, and present action from becoming directionless.
STRENGTHENING THE CORD
"Different methods of theological training are like the strands of a rope. Used alongside each other, they strengthen and complement each other and are stronger than any one or two methods could be by themselves" ("Different Strands of One Rope: Using Various Methods of Theological Instruction" by James Egli, Mission Focus, March, 1985, Vol. 13, No. 1).
In the work among the African Independent Churches of Botswana and Lesotho, the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission assumed that the proper method of leadership development was theological education by extension. Egli says, "As we look at it now, this statement (i.e., the commitment to extension education) may seem quite restrictive, but at the time it was a move in the right direction." The reason for using theological education by extension as its model for leadership development was the realization that leadership development had to be decentralized.
The extension method met with varying degrees of success in different places. In some places the classes started over extended periods of time have all but vanished. The leaders of the churches have found it difficult to sit next to younger men who could read and write much better. This threat made it difficult to get many of the leaders to attend the classes. Serious attempts were made to make the content fit the context, but it still had a highly cognitive, academic dimension just from being located in a classroom. "Scripture was to be learned and assimilated by the mind. The classroom situation failed to relate to life in its totality. …"
In 1982, the Bible conference approach was added. It set teaching "in a more festive and less pedantic setting." The use of conferences had several advantages. It was much more culturally appropriate and the response was enthusiastic. The leaders did not feel threatened in this setting. They assumed significant roles of leadership. "Yet instead of competing, the extension and conference methods complement and strengthen each other….Like two strands of a rope, the two methods belong side by side; then they are strongest and most effective."
There are other methods that are not being tried. These are more of an informal nature-book ministries, home Bible studies, and so on. The overlappping nature of some of the methods helps to strengthen and reinforce the whole goal of leadership development. Egli says, "Besides the present means of instruction, what is to stop us from using more methods and making the rope even better? Insights can be borrowed from various models and systems. Think of the vast educational resources available in these four areas: (1) traditional African culture and pedagogy; (2) biblical teaching and discipling models; (3) traditional Western educational systems (books, classes); (4) modern educational theory."
The lessons learned by the Africa Inter-Mennonite Missions echo the findings in both the research literature in communications and nonformal education. There is no single perfect way to communicate or educate. The message is most likely to be heard, understood, and adopted when there is a variety of media used. Likewise, nonformal education suggests that a variety of overlapping and mutually reinforcing educational environments provide the best and richest educational experiences.
When we share our experiences it would be helpful to see them as additional strands to a rope, rather than another program to be copied. A study of the various strands in existence and the variety of ways in which they can be woven together would be of immense help.
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