Tuesday, November 21, 2006

College President/CEO

On page A-16 of November 20 NYT's there is an intriguing headline: "Pay Packages for Presidents Are Rising at Public Colleges." The article has several themes: about the disparity between presidential pay and that of the faculty, about the difficulty recruiting college presidents and their diminishing tenure, and the changing character of what it means to be a college president.
Roger Bown, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors is quoted as saying "Presidents now are CEO's. You no longer have treasurers, you have chief financial officers; you no longer have deans, you have chief academic officers. Faculty play the role of labor, students play the role of customer." The article then continued to say that there is "....a shift in emphasis from educational achievement to financial management."
Is the same shift happening in the church? Are Senior Pastors now Lead Pastors with attendant CFO's? Are pastoral staff seen as labor and the members/attenders as customers? Is that an OK shift or is there something spiritually toxic about that paradigm?
What about at denominational levels, when there is such pressure to raise funds. What is the emerging role of an institutional president? Hmmm.


At 9:04 PM , Anonymous Gary Means said...

I think it will get worse as attendance at evangelical churches follows the attendance trend of the mainline churches. The demographic base will continue to age as fewer young people retain interest in the subcultural socio-political club that characterizes much of modern American Christianity. I suspect that the crisis will come to a point were all but the most ardent fundamentalist isolationists have to acknowledge that something is broken. And when the church is faced with a dire need for more people or more money, out come the gimmicks. It's very natural and very logical to turn to man's tools and techniques when you insist on some sense of control over the process so that you can attempt to maximize results. Madison Avenue and Wall Street should feel very flattered indeed.

I know of a church that brought in an associate pastor to essentially manage all of the programs of the church. He's sort of the business manager of the church. Church attendance declined significantly in the first two years after his arrival. Some of the people I know who left essentially felt like the church was being run over by a large impersonal machine.

I think that's why many in the emerging church are looking back to more ancient spiritual practices and simpler communities, to avoid the "slickification" (how's that for a word?) of the church. They hunger for something "real", something with the fragrance of Christ, rather than the odor of human effort. I know that the church throughout history has never been free of political scandal and the embracing of worldly ways. But I have this concept that there were men and women who first and foremost sought God and His Kingdom as they lived their lives and ministered to others.

In the North Pacific Conference, there's a workshop which at least acknowledges that there is a problem. So often we in the church insist on flogging equine corpses with the latest church growth trick from the latest megachurch superstar author. To be honest, I'm very surprised at this move. It's a positive sign.

This is from the promotional material for the workshop:
The current church culture in North America is on life support.

The further down you go in the generational food chain, the lower the percentage each succeeding generation reports going to church.

90% of kids active in high school youth groups do not go to church by the time they are sophomores in college. One third of these will never return.

A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith. They contend that the church no longer contributes to their spiritual development.

The world is profoundly different than it was at the middle of the last century. We are entering a new epoch of human history called the postmodern age. The postmodern world will demand a new church expression. Much of what we call church is not going to survive.

Frankly, I want the church to survive. But I don't want it to survive as it has in Europe, where it is largely nothing more than a cultural symbol of days gone by, and a place for old women to gather. I have faith that God is not done with the institutional church in America, but I agree with the last statement made by the consultant: much of what we call church is not going to survive.

The link to the workshop is:

At 9:33 PM , Anonymous Gary Means said...

Just after I posted the previous comment, I was able to put my finger on why the corporate model for churches disturbs me.

I'll change the roles you suggested just a little: pastors are being expected to become CEOs with a staff of Vice Presidents and Directors, and the members/attenders are the labor-force and the customers. No where in the picture are God, those who have no church affiliation, or those who have no affiliation with Christ.

In this scenario, unique, distinct individuals are not all that necessary. All you need are bodies to fill the roles. So we recruit, flatter, and coerce. A favorite technique is the bait-and-switch approach. "All we want you to do is [fill in blank]." Then the scope-creep enters in, frequently followed by eventual burn-out, resentment, or even alienation.

People are more than human resources to be exploited for "the cause", whatever that may be in each church. Of course, as I often do, I am painting with a very broad brush. Every church is unique and employs a unique approach to organizational issues. I believe that it is seldom true that God is left out of the mix. But I do believe that we often try to make Him as unnecessary as possible. When God is involved, it invariably gets messy and unpredictable.

If relationships matter more than programs, if practicing love matters more than increasing the offering, if community-relevant ministry matters more than boosting the attendance, then isn't it possible that this would be attractive to others? I sound so idealistic, but I really, really like what Scot McKnight has to say in "The Jesus Creed". -- Love God and love others.
(my abbreviated paraphrase)

At 10:04 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Gary for your comments. I too am hopeful for some of the indicator at the conference level and among publishing houses, that there is a serious problem that needs addressing. It's just at the upper level I'm not sure anyone is listening.

At 5:47 PM , Blogger Kevin Funkhouser said...

Representing my "love God//love others" wrist tattoos! I must be holy. Except for the inherently questionable presence of tattoos in the first place...

Yeah, Don (and yeah, Gary), this is some important stuff. The camp I worked at this last year was going through an adjustment period away from "slickification," and my job as a staff advisor gave me a good view of the glitches that had become embedded in the system, even with the leadership trying it's hardest to move in the direction of staff care. Basically, the higher-up leadership had not been providing spiritual care for the people working at the bottom of the totem pole.

These glitches caused something like eight out of ten kitchen workers to quit, and the food-service-folks who "stayed the course" *ahem* ended up weary and disillusioned. If a pastor is a CEO, the staff won't receive enough spiritual care, and neither will the congregation.

But, hey, the church may generate more money!

At 1:46 PM , Blogger Grateful one said...

I found this interesting and appreciate reading what you all had to say. I've experienced some of what was referred to as "slicktification" and felt the deep difference between a group of believers meeting with God together and a business trying to expand.

I was in a church for 6yrs where I feel like the world business model was being used. I got the impression that the Sr Pastor wanted to grow the church, most likely due to a true desire to reach people for Jesus. But somewhere along the line it all looked to me like it got confused and went into using business type techniques for church growth and marketing gimmicks. It was difficult for me being in that church. When I'd moved to that area I didn't know anyone and picked the specific church because it was close to my new home, I knew the denomination of the church had a solid theology base, and the children's program was awesome. I'd just became a single mom at the time, moved to the area for my job and had 3 sons ages 6, 7, & 11. My kids were totally fed there and so I stayed. I made some wonderful friends while there and ensured that I got spiritually fed through means outside of the church and volunteered in the children's program.

Recently I moved again to a totally new area. The new area is a very small town (pop 3,500) so I was a bit concerned about church choices. We went to one of the churchs and it was like a breath of fresh air! The pastor preaches through books of the bible. He demonstrates love for the people in the church. Sure they want to reach out to the community but they don't focus only on that every week and there are no promotional gimmicks. They try various ways to reach out to the community but it just doesn't feel slick or like they are trying to market.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker