Years ago before anyone called me their pastor, I was assigned a ministry team of about 15 people to manage. I was excited, and diligently prepared for our weekly meetings. I wanted to manage them responsibly and with integrity. But after several months, something wasn't working.

A third of the group hated me and quit attending our meetings. A third of them loved me. The other third was undecided. Not an ideal ratio. I was blindsided because I felt like I had done a sterling job as a manager; but I felt that I had failed somewhere. So I began to study management again with a more sensitive spirit.

I found that the word "manage" originally referred to training horses The French word manège means a school for teaching horsemanship and training horses. Rather dehumanizing when it comes to people. I had an epiphany: Though I was prepared, organized, and communicated clearly, I treated my team more like horses than people. People aren't horses, or things, that we can simply "manage".

Whatever our context—a ministry group, a corporate department, a congregation, a small business staff, a medical team, or a class or faculty—we must remind ourselves that every individual is a soul designed to exhibit the image and ingenuity of God.

A six-gun, lasso, and hearty "giddyap" just won't work for most people. They need a different kind of "management."

Industry and information

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution transformed America's predominantly agricultural economy into an industrial one. Factories were built to house new machines where assembly lines facilitated processing and production more efficiently than ever conceived before. The Industrial Age made many workers expendable, and the machine-driven industry eventually cut 90 percent of agricultural jobs.

We must remind ourselves that every individual is a soul designed to exhibit the image and ingenuity of God.

Late 20th-century innovations in digitalization and communication, along with the development of the modern computer and the internet have hastily pushed us over another divide. Our knowledge-oriented economy is often called the Information Age. Furthermore, a growing percentage of our nation's production sector has been organized offshore. Countless rickety barns and vacant factories whisper a testimony of two bygone eras. Farming and industrial production always will be needed, but the emergent players dominating the new economy are companies that have been birthed or overhauled with Information Age evolutions in mind.

As products and processes and design and development have changed radically, so have people, their priorities, their options, and their mobility. In the Industrial era, the administrative objective was optimizing the output of manual workers who followed orders from above. "Knowledge workers" didn't play predominant roles within the organization. Peter Drucker says: "Today, however, the large knowledge organization is the central reality. Modern society is a society of large organized institutions. In every one of them, including the armed services, the center of gravity has shifted to the knowledge workers, the man who puts to work what he has between his ears rather than the brawn of his muscles or the skill of his hands."

Spreading out

I made a lot of mistakes during the first few years after my wife and I launched our new church. But in hindsight, I did one thing right on target. I spread the work of ministry out.

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