Wednesday, May 02, 2007

leadership in zones of change

I spoke for about 2 hours recently to a group of ministers. My topic was “Mission with a Kiwi accent” and I explored a number of mission stories as they have emerged for us at Opawa, mixed in with some reflection on Scripture and change dynamics and cultural engagement. It seemed to go well, with a good deal of energy in the room and some good interest in some of their churches entering into the Missional Leadership Coaching course I run.

Toward the end I showed them this diagram; view image – 96K from Al Roxburgh and Fred Romanuck.

The diagram describes the life of an organism from one of rapid development (green zone), to organisational efficiency (blue zone), to death. This is a healthy and natural life cycle and can be applied to church life.

Each zone requires a different type of leadership to move to the next stage of the life cycle and it normalises and legitimises all stages of life. On the spur of the moment, without really thinking, I asked the group of gathered clergy to self-identify. How many were in a green zone church? And a show of hands. A blue zone? And another shows of hands. Red zone? And a further show of hands.

It was an interesting exercise to do, and a way of gaining insight into a group of churches. And then on the way home for me to reflect on the different leadership and change challenges generated, say, if the grouping was mainly green, or mainly blue, or mainly red.

Posted by steve at 10:39 PM


  1. Steve, this is quite staggering. What has me thinking now, is whether or not it could be considered that these churches represent a lot of churches globally, either within the Anglican denomination, or across all denominations. It would be really interesting to have some global research carried out. Do you know if there has been any?

    Comment by Lyn — May 3, 2007 @ 7:35 am

  2. Followed this from Lyn’s blog and was left wondering how you see death as a healthy and natural part of the life of a church, and what kind of leadership is needed in death?
    Is it that the majority are causing death or are they the wrong leaders to facilitate death?

    Thanks Steve


    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2007 @ 2:27 am

  3. one thing that fascinates me

    part of our story is that death has no dominion

    death precedes resurrection – not denial, not renewal – death

    what if our calling is Palliative care – care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms or slowing the disease’s progress, rather than providing a cure. The goal is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve quality of life for people facing serious, complex illness.

    Comment by bob c — May 4, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  4. Steve, I think a comment of mine vanished, any ideas.


    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2007 @ 6:41 am

  5. no worries it just appeared again!!

    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2007 @ 6:41 am

  6. Dave,
    When I gave the example, I was reflecting with the group on how helping people die well is a great gift. I was thinking of dynamics at a human level of moving into the rest home, leaving a legacy, closing accounts.

    So, I then moved to apply this human analogy to a church in the red zone – helping them make the changes that might breathe life well for another generation.

    I would want to separate out church from the Church. I don’t necessarily see the Church throughout time and history dying. But there are a lots of examples of particular forms of church dying eg the form that met in revival tents and sang Sankey hymns eg the church that got overtaken by a local industrial area eg the inner city church later surrounded by a shopping eg the changes that happened when a whole new ethnic group moved into the neighbourhood.

    Or think of a ministry within the church or a group within the church eg the under 5 playschool group when all the kids grow up and go to school, eg the rural youth group faced with the exodus of people each year to university.

    Helping a church respond to these changes is an important leadership gift and it might well be that the best response is a form of death,


    Comment by steve — May 4, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  7. Thanks Steve…another question then, ‘how long should a church remain alive?’

    Allow me to expand, we always hear of church planters but never church uprooters. God plants and pulls, but we seem to think that once a church plant happens it must last forever. When God quickens a heart to plant I think the ears grow dull if God (a year later) says ‘okay close it down now’ or ‘okay move it here etc’.

    This is mainly due to how God views success and how man views success.

    That is why Christianity is the worlds largest employer of dead horse floggers!

    Fact: Nothing lasts forever, just try attending the church in ephesus, we all die one day.

    Comment by Dave — May 5, 2007 @ 4:17 am

  8. I’m only an anglican ordinand and that sea of red hands keeps me “awake long into the night!

    Comment by Andrew McDonald — May 6, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  9. If it is a healthy and natural cycle does it matter if they are in the red zone? does red not have its own leadership challenges as in any other zone? If all organisations pass thru these zones would we not expect to find that those who have been established for some time to have more reds than greens?

    Comment by Paul — May 10, 2007 @ 2:33 am

  10. agreed Paul. that is the point I try and make when I present this stuff, that each stage needs a different type of leadership, and has different challenges for the leader.

    a question I often get though is this; how does a red zone be part of more green zones. most people want to leave a legacy, want to have some sense that life will go on beyond their lifecycle. what does the birthing of green zones mean for churches and organisations in red zones?


    Comment by — May 16, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

  11. Thanks Steve, yes I can see what you mean, that every generation there needs to be some new birth/life/growth – that the Spirit is doing new things but it is also part of the old things, so how do we bring that challenge together?

    For me it is one of the reasons I am attracted to deep church and involved in the site to give it a shameless plug 🙂

    Comment by Paul — May 17, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

  12. cheers Paul. i work pretty hard in the way i teach emerging church to move beyond dualisms of traditional vs emerging; red vs green. Seems to me that such attractive, either/or dichotomies are simply the fruit of modern dualisms.

    i find Brian Mclaren’s use of the church as like a tree helpful; each era has a new ring that is impacted by climatic change and dependent on what has gone before. So emerging needs to be contextual, yet can never be isolated, we will always be shaped, both positively and negatively by our parents.


    Comment by — May 17, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  13. yeah i agree steve, i have to keep reminding myself that I didn’t just suddenly pop up as a christian and have been shaped by and react to by christian heritage. It is very easy to get dualistic and make it about being right rather about doing/being good.

    Comment by Paul — May 18, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

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