by Wilfred A. Bellamy
Management principles have been much in the thinking of mission executives and missionaries in recent years. Such terms as organizational charts, job descriptions and management by objectives, already popular in the literature, have found their way into everyday conversation.
Management principles have been much in the thinking of mission executives and missionaries in recent years. Such terms as organizational charts, job descriptions and management by objectives, already popular in the literature, have found their way into everyday conversation. This article, therefore, will not address itself to the subject of management, but to answering a question that in my opinion is of greater importance: "Who are you, and what are you for?"
It is eminently possible for a mission to improve its organizational structure, understand its lines of authority, streamline its financial planning and computerize its support services and yet not clearly identify itself to its membership. To ask for evaluation and planning in these circumstances is to ask for frustration. A standard or norm for measurement must be provided where evaluation is deemed necessary. No one can plan effectively without clearly defined parameters to guide and control his thinking.
This then assumes that a mission should be in a position to say, "Who we are and what we are for" to every missionary throughout the organization in such a way that he in his turn may make a similar statement, thus bringing his own role into perspective and helping him to see how his past and proposed activities fit within the total program of the mission.
Structure and good organization are important. They are tools that assist in the accomplishment of tasks] but they do not provide a norm for the measurement of effective missionary service. Such a norm may only be provided when a clear answer is found to "Who are you, and what are you for?"
In 1972 the writer was appointed Director of Missionary Internship. This is not a mission but a missionary training center where candidates are prepared for cross cultural service, and where missionaries on furlough find help with personal evaluation and further training. It became apparent after interviewing every member of the M.I. staff that each person had a separate and definite opinion about the work, the candidates, the programs and the modus operandi. In short, we did not know precisely who we were and what we were for.
So it was decided that before we could begin to evaluate our programs and plan effectively for the future, the staff should meet together over a period of days in order to discover a workable mandate for the organization and to understand for what purposes God had brought us together at the present time. We all had ideas. We needed to come to consensus.
Where to begin was a good question. Our literature described us in various terms. Nowhere did it clearly state precisely what we were doing or should be doing. Were we a remedial process, a preventive process, or a sharpening process? Were we to make our emphasis spiritual or practical or both? The only way to come to consensus was to involve the staff in intensive thinking and discussion, recognizing that in the personnel of the organization lay the answers to our questions.
What followed became one of the most exciting experiences in the writer’s career. It was risky, for it implied threat to some and required a willingness to change on the part of others. It shook the old structures as it introduced new concepts. Sometimes the new were rejected and the old remained intact. It was a melting pot experience that resulted in a very clear organizational statement of mandate, purposes and goals, and perhaps best of all, it was the product of the entire team, working together and pooling resources. This was a strengthening and unifying process.
Thus, we share on the basis of that experience the "plan" that was followed. It may serve as a guide to those who are also looking for an answer to the question, "Who are you, what are you for?"
STEP ONE: SELECT YOUR PARTICIPANTS
Plan to have the right people there. Let representation be wide. Include every segment of the mission. Give full right of voice to all involved. Work in a peer relationship. You do not need a consultant. Do this work for yourselves. The product will then be your own entirely. No one else’s perspective can work for you.
STEP TWO: DETERMINE YOUR FACILITIES
Be prepared to spend as much time as is necessary. At Missionary Internship this total exercise took between two and three weeks. Use successive days in order to maintain continuity of thought. Have a room in which you can move around. Be sure that you have chalkboard, overhead projector, large wall-type scratch pads, wall space, etc.
STEP THREE: DEFINE YOUR TERMINOLOGY
It is very important that you use the same terms for the same items as a group. Not to do this causes confusion. We suggest the following four words will help.
1. Mandate. This is the "umbrella" statement. It is the over-all description of who you are. It should not be more than one or two carefully worded sentences. Example: "Missionary Internship is a training organization which exists to develop and orient Christian men and woman for cross cultural service, and to apply its resources to the missionary task of the church."
2. Purpose. This describes the reason for which you exist. There will probably be several purpose statements that are appropriate for your organization. They must fit within the parameters dictated by the mandate. Example: "To encourage within the individual an increasing understanding of himself as a basis for developing family and other inter-personal relationships."
3. Goal. This describes in more specific terms what you hope to accomplish in the fulfilment of a stated purpose. There will probably be several goals for each purpose. Example: The following goals relate to purpose #1 above: (a) "To help the individual to understand and accept himself in relation to his calling as a Christian." (b) "To help the individual to accept and appreciate others as a basis for positive inter-personal relationships."
4. Objective. This describes the means by which you will accomplish your goals. Each objective should be precise, measurable and singular in concept. At Missionary Internship the objectives of the organization are found in the program content. Every team member describes his own objectives within the organizational goals stated. Thus, while mandate, purposes and goals must be a collective statement, objectives are produced by those who have the responsibility for functioning within the parameters of the collective statement.
Thus we have four levels indicated lay the four terms that may be summed up as follows. There are many objectives by which the organization will achieve the goals that are described within the purposes that it perceives appropriate under the mandate.
STEP FOUR: DETERMINE YOUR PROCEDURE
1. Mandate. Explain the terminology to the group. Go first after the mandate. Seek a refined single statement that will serve as a basis for the total exercise. It may be adjusted from time to time. Here’s how:
All participants write down their own description of the organization in an effort to answer the question, "Who or what are we?" If the group is large have participants share their finding in small sub-groups first. Record all available statements on chalk-board, overhead projector, paper, etc. Discuss the findings. Make any adjustments indicated. Ensure all vital elements are present.
All participants compound what is in their opinion the best statement available. Record findings. Seek consensus of group in selecting the one statement that now becomes the organizational mandate.
Note: Progress is often slow. There is a tendency to bog down. People get frustrated. Some become anxious. At this point recognize the dynamics of creative tension. The group will come out of the experience with positive impressions. The important word at this point is, "Don’t panic." At Missionary Internship this part of the exercise took almost three days.
2. Purposes. Follow a similar procedure to the one used to discover the mandate. Recognize that there will be several significant purposes that will emerge. Ask all participants to attempt to answer the question "What are we for?" writing out several short statements.
Record and refine as indicated previously. Set purposes down in order of priority. Make sure that every purpose statement finally accepted and recorded fits within the mandate. At this point you may wish to make an adjustment either to the mandate or to one or other of the purpose statements.
3. Goals. Work with purpose statements one by one. Ask participants to write down everything that should be done in order to fulfill the chosen purpose. Record as before, but do not begin to refine as yet. Take each purpose and follow this procedure so that before refinement all possible information has been recorded. When all information is recorded and displayed, then begin to refine. Refined goals will then be recorded in their final form.
STEP FIVE: VERIFY YOUR CONCLUSIONS
Now that you have completed the hard work of compiling the total statement, the exercise is almost complete. It would now be useful to spread out the statement before the group and take one final look, making sure that you have consensus as to its content and format, and that it adequately expresses who you are and what you are for.
From time to time you will want to look again at the statement in order to test its relevance, but in the main you now have a reliable standard against which to make all organizational evaluation and a distinct set of guidelines for planning.
STEP SIX: COMMUNICATE THE STATEMENT
The constituency or membership of your organization will wish to know how the statement appears. Be sure and distribute the document throughout the organization at every level. Entertain feedback and hold it ready for an opportunity for a second look at the statement in the future.
It will probably be necessary to submit the statement to the board of the organization for approval.
STEP SEVEN: SETTING OBJECTIVES & PRIORITIES
Next we come to the action level. Here is where the concrete issues are faced. It is clear that at this level those who have the responsibility for accomplishing the goals of the mission must have the privilege of determining their own objectives within the parameters provided. To impose objectives on the missionary would be to impersonalize his service. This is to be avoided.
Setting objectives is a skill that can be acquired. However, space does not permit the writer to attempt to do justice to what is a technical subject and which would require special treatment.
We will, however, look at one final issue. How can a person decide what objectives should have priority? In what order should important tasks be done?
A simple approach to priority setting would be to follow a technique that we have used effectively at Missionary Internship
1. Write each objective on separate three by five cards.
2. Spread out the cards so that all are clearly to be seen.
3. Group the cards according to task categories.
4. Within each category rate the objectives according to priority using a key rating such as Very Important, Important, Not Important, or fiery Urgent, Urgent, Not Urgent.
5. Analyze present use of time and re-allocate time to objectives according to order of priority.
6. Priority ratings will be influenced both by the organizational goals and the personal preferences of the individual.
However, the object of the exercise is to contain personal preferences within the organizational goals.
The mission that produces a mandate, purposes and goals statement will have a valuable document that will serve as a standard by which means evaluation may take place, and which will serve as a guide in future planning. It will provide the missionary with a clear understanding of his role, thus, he in his turn is better able to do his own evaluation and planning. The organization will then move forward with a clear sense of harmony as it seeks to accomplish the purposes for which it was brought into being.
At Missionary Internship this exercise was a liberating experience for all concerned. We no longer ask, "Who are we, what are we for?" We serve the body of Christ with a new sense of purpose. We trust that this article will help others to do so, too.
A copy of Missionary Internship’s statement of mandate, purposes and goals is available for the asking. Write to Box 457, Farmington, Mich. 48024. – Eds.
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