Teal Organisation In The Methodist Tradition
My parents are practising Methodists, just as their parents before them, and, although I stopped attending church regularly in my teens, my upbringing was steeped in Methodist traditions. Reading
Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux about the traits of different organisational patterns in the book “Reinventing Organizations”, although the author considers religious organisations to be generally Amber-Conservative, it’s interesting to see the similarities between the Teal-Evolutionary approach and some of the practices of the methodist church, especially at local level.
Although the community is essentially hierarchical and divided nationally into districts and then circuits, the active members of each local church, which may number a dozen or more, bear a striking resemblance to a team, as discussed by Laloux. They are responsible for all front-line activities like fundraising initiatives, church building maintenance, local charity events and a myriad of other tasks. Members may spontaneously come together to organise some activity with complete autonomy.
Any important decisions at this level are discussed at church meetings and agreed by consensus. Everyone is welcome to participate. Roles like treasurer and secretary are usually volunteers, again agreed internally, and rotate organically.
A single circuit may contain 20 or more local churches and at circuit level a Reverend and a small number of ministers could be considered the staff of the organisation. They number in single figures and perform high-level administration. The Reverend and other ordained ministers perform weddings, funerals, home visits and such like. Members may, and often do, seek advice from the staff or other areas of the organisation.
Representatives of the local churches, again volunteers agreed by consensus, will attend circuit meetings along with the ministers. Once more, special roles within the circuit are filled by volunteers and agreed by the same process.
When problems present themselves such as special efforts for charity, unexpected expenditure for maintenanceKnown as ‘Operational Risk’ in the banking sector. , etc. then the local churches may ask the circuit for help or guidance. In turn, the circuit may ask the district for help, and so onNot sure where that ends, probably with the Queen or something. . Nonetheless, it remains the responsibility of the local church itself to ultimately solve the problem, even if that means making some very hard decisions.
It must be understood that new ideas must be “sold” to other members of the community for consensus to be reached. It is also necessary to accept (and be able to accept) the consensus even when it may not suit you personallyNote to self: active acquiescence .
Although the church is experiencing a decrease in participation generally, this model has worked for decades. I believe that its success can be put down to multiple factors:
- A willingness, indeed eagerness, to reach consensus. This is generally in the sense of an openness to assist others in their efforts but may also mean giving up amicably on an idea which is not well received.
- Autonomy at the front-line, a personal sense of responsibility to “do your bit” and a general sense of generosity of spirit to help maintain the community.
- Normal social checks and balances pertaining to human relationships since time immemorial.
This kind of organisation feels “right” to me, maybe because of my upbringing but mainly because of the autonomy it enables, and even encourages, through personal initiative and fulfilment. Maybe it’s a model with a future in other sectors.