Control vs Empowerment Structures
Apr 19, 2018
While talking with a CPM practitioner today, I was struck by something he said that crystallized something I’ve heard and seen many times. There are two kinds of organizational systems which can be created: systems that control, and systems that empower.
We create controlling systems largely out of our fears. These systems say, “Wait, let’s think about this.” There are things in life that can go wrong - sometimes mildly wrong, sometimes horribly and tragically wrong, sometimes fatally wrong, sometimes eternally wrong. We want to prevent this, so we create structures of prevention and control.
Controlling structures are, by definition, intended to constrict possible forms of action and to literally slow things down so that bad decisions aren’t made reflexively.
Controls are about the things we must do but we might do wrong.
The problem with controlling structures in the church: it tends to reinforce the idea that without proper training and authorization, we should not be evangelizing or making disciples. We want to prevent bad disciplemaking, but controlling structures do not naturally encourage good disciple-making. Controlling structures say “no, unless..”
Empowering systems, on the other hand, encourage our passions. They say, “Yes, and…!” There are things in life that can go right - sometimes wildly right, sometimes fantastically and eternally right, with thousands coming to faith. We want to encourage that, so we create systems to lift up, encourage, fuel, catalyze, power. Yes, you should share your faith, and if you will let us, we can help you do it better.
Empowering structures are intended to speed things up - to make things better in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness - we say “yes” to the things we should do and we do them well.
Yes, there are times we need control structures in the church. But if controls outnumber empowering structures - structures that intentionally lift up, encourage, and improve activity - then we will have a problem, and that problem will demonstrate itself through very slow growth, stagnation, and decline.<footer></footer>