Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not a Bad Idea!

From Spectrum,
Winter, 2008

Change in the Adventist Church: Analyzing the Latest Actions of the General Conference” by Michael E. Cafferky is positive proof that the bloated administrative structure of the Adventist Church is self perpetuating. The writing is administrative gobbledygook of the first order. Unfortunately, the writing reflects the inability of General Conference delegates to do the necessary work of the Church. Here's part of a typical committee report.

“As a church, we must become mature enough to embrace continued discussions about vertical power and authority as we move on to include other discussions about the horizontal connections that are needed. Without horizontal integration efforts, we will make slow progress toward improved flexibility. The net result will be only marginal progress toward mission accomplishment.”

(click image to enlarge)
Comic modified from Non Sequitur, by Wiley.


  1. Here is a link to an Adventist News Network item, Six Sigma for the church?, that might go along with this topic.

    As one who worked in the software industry for over a decade, I've been through so many such "process improvement" inititatves that produced little or no lasting results that that I am competely disillusioned by them.

    Anyway, my opinion is that all that these initiatives do is to produce more bureaucracy and non-productive desk work for everyone involved.

  2. We live in a different age in some areas of the world. Jesus once said "Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts." (Mark 6:8); and one of the writers even admonishes against taking a staff. However today the church had better take care of all these assets - tithe payers will hold administrators responsible.

    I have no doubt that Paul Ratsara (Mark's Six Sigma link) will call into being a flurry of seminars - all the way down to the humble worker at the bottom of the pile. I experienced that myself while in one of the African Divisions. Like Mark, I came from a commercial background to run a publishing house as well as act as a consultant at division level. The print end of the publishing department certainly needed an overhaul in some areas.

    At the same time it is a mistaken belief where churches sense that better administration is a cure-all for today's ills - it certainly is not. I remember the call in Africa for nationalisation - and the subsequent warnings sounded by some Union presidents who knew that the dollars would not flow quite so quickly to some of our institutions as a consequence. And that was quite correct - some institutions simply evaporated into thin air.

    But hey! The church in Africa grew and grew - baptismal figures went through the roof in some countries. Perhaps the onset of AIDS set it off, but the church certainly did not need better run hospitals, clinics, schools and the like to bring about growth. And yet all these things are necessary if the SDA church is to continue lifting people out of the miserable conditions they are often found in.

    If a pastor is enabled to travel further through the proper stewardship of allowances all the better. I remember R H Pierson visiting our church years ago in a university town in South Africa. I am so glad he did - his deeply spiritual influence touched the lives of numerous young people, who later served as missionaries in Africa - one sacrificing his life in the effort to reach out to others.

  3. Andy, I have probably plowed through far more administrative gobbledygook over the years than you have been exposed to. As that stuff goes, the paragraph you quote is pretty good, quite clear. It is calling for open discussion of top-down leadership styles with too much centralization of power. And it is calling for increased collaboration at the grass roots. There is considerable evidence that both of those issues need attention in the Adventist Church.

    You are talking about a denomination with 25 million participants ("adherents," to use the technical term). That is considerably larger than most denominations on the globe. Some bureaucracy is inevitable. I agree with you, in any large organization the people in administrative roles tend to try to perpetuate the current system. They often honestly feel that it is a moral obligation of their job. Overcoming that, as well as the self-interest involved, makes organizational change very difficult ... but not impossible.

  4. monte,
    You should be reporting this stuff! You are understandable!