According to WordNet, the word “organization” carries a broad range of meanings:
- A group of people who work together
- A structure for arranging or classifying
- The persons (or committees or departments etc.) who make up a body for the purpose of administering something
- The act of organizing a business or an activity related to a business
- An ordered manner; orderliness by virtue of being methodical or well organized
- The activity or result of distributing or disposing persons or things properly or methodically
- The act of forming or establishing something
As I’ve said on this blog many times, whenever two people get together for any reason, there is a type of organization. This type of “organization” is related to the first definition above: “a group of people who work together”.
When it comes to the church, when God’s people get together there is organization (per definition 1 above). The question, however, how much organization is necessary? As my regular readers probably know, I suggest that group of people use as little organization as they can. Why? Because organization and structure tend build on themselves, such that the organization and/or structure becomes the primary factor. In other words, as organization grows uncontrolled, the people can become lost – commodities – resources to be distributed or disposed of (see definition 5 above).
So, how much organization is necessary for the church?
For the last four years, three couples that we know very well have been meeting together. They get together almost every week – usually on Friday, occasionally on Thursday or Saturday, and sometimes not at all. Sometimes, they intentionally invite other people to meet with them. Sometimes people drop in on them unexpectedly. Our family has both been invited to join them on occasion, and dropped in unexpectedly and unannounced on occasion.
Each week, they meet at a different location – usually one of their homes. They have different plans each week. They usually eat together, although different couples provide the food each time. Sometimes they have a full meal together; sometimes just dessert.
In the description above, it is clear that organization is involved. The organization includes when to meet, where to meet, what to do, what to eat, who will cook, etc. But, here’s the thing, there is no overriding organizational plan or model. They make these organizational decisions together based on who is available, what they’re available to do, and when they can do it. They purposefully choose not to set these decisions down in organizational stone because they want to be flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the people involved.
If someone can’t get together on Friday at 7:00, they change the time to 8:00, or they change they day to Thursday. The people are more important than the plan or organization.
In a few weeks, we’re planning to begin meeting with a group of people for fellowship, Bible study, meals, etc. We’re planning to meet on Saturday nights at 6:00, and we’re going to alternate meeting locations. We’re planning to study Scripture together. We’re planning to invite other people to join us whenever they can.
We realize that all of this involves organization. But, we also realize that there will be times when Saturday night at 6:00 is not a good meeting time. We realize that there will be times when we have to change meeting locations. We realize that there will be occasions when we need to change the Scripture passage that we’re studying.
The question that we must ask ourselves is how much organization is necessary for this group, and at what point will organization begin harming the group?
We’ve determined that there is something more important than organization: communication. Communication and organization are related, but not equivalent.
I believe, because of the increased ability to communicate today, less and less organization is necessary for the church to function. We will be using telephone, email, facebook, and other methods to communication information about our Saturday evening meetings.
We want only enough organization to help us maintain community, but not as much organization that it begins to hinder community. This may be a fine line.
What do you think? How much organization is necessary? At what point does organization (too much or too little) become dangerous to the church?