The question of how change happens in an organization or society is a fascinating one. One version of this (From the Book Getting to Maybe) might be worth considering. It involves stages of release, reorganization, exploitation and conservation. So what does this mean? To make it easier the analogy of a forest is a good one for this.
Release – Where does new life come from? Well from the seeds of what came before. This though is not enough. There also needs to be nutrients, and usually this comes from the nutrients given by what came before, whether it is mothers milk or the charred remains after a forest fire. Some how the life of what has been needs to be released so that the seeds of the new can grow. This can be forced on an organization or intentional, but for new life, the old must give of it self for life to continue.
Reorganization – Continue is exactly what life likes to do. As a forest grows new opportunities are sought, connections are made, and there is intense competition for resources. Think of the flourishing of life after a forest fire when all the seeds begin to sprout. So organizations need times in which almost anything is tried, possibilities are sought, and tried. Most will fail, but a few will succeed and grow.
Exploitation – If the previous phase succeeds it moves to the stage of exploitation. A new path is seen. Resources, and new structures are refocused so that the new growth can grow, thrive and develop roots. Think of when a few trees begin to grow above others, while smaller trees begin to die and fall down, making room for a few trees to thrive.
Conservation is when the successful paradigme/form begins to dominate the landscape and consume all the resources. In some ways we can think of our previous model of parishes, with a building and a pastor, serving their dedicated members.
The danger of conservation, is that a rigidity sets in which prevents future adaptation. History is full of the bones of organizations like this. Basically they refuse to change, and then on mass collapse. This is much like the supper forest fires that have happened recently after smaller fires have been prevented for decades. – Since there is no release of resources, there is too few nutrients for new growth to easily spring up – clearly a danger we are now in as a church. There is also a danger in re-organization called the poverty trap, when a lack of focus and a lack of letting go can prevent adequate resources going to could thrive.
In many way the possibility thinkers group is like the time of release/reorganization, when what is needed is for resources to be freed for countless seeds to sprout. Yep, it might look like a shotgun approach, but this is good so that there is the possibility of every possible seeds to sprout. I was in the rain forest of Costa Rica last year. And interesting the largest trees which eventually dominate the landscape are actually from a seed that is often the last to sprout up and which grows the slowest. So really who know what might eventually thrive.
I think the current challenge is to get as many people throughout the church planting seeds, and seeing what grows.
We are also though at the release phase, and since we have allowed a strong set of rigidly to exist for a while now, the question will be extra difficult in terms of how to release the nutrients we need to allow new life to eventually thrive. That is perhaps one of the most important stewardship questions for the church at this moment. (I offer a strong hint for planned giving emphasising both congregations and individuals)
In time the danger we will face is if it never moves to exploitation, in other words if it remains with many sprouts, and nothing develops deep roots –if we never develop focus. That is still a problem for another day. For now our question is how do we release resources so that we can allow as many seeds as possible the chance of germinating, and sprouting into the church God is calling us to be.
I believe getting to maybe is a good resource for the continued dialogue of transformation. A good resource though for members of the church as a whole, is Presence by Peter Senge, etc. it is about organizational/life change and how to maneuver through it in healthy ways.
Spiritual Directions director John Griffith in Calgary does workshops and retreats on this if I remember correctly.