Management speak or theology speak

I don’t know which is worse –

In my experience Church people are suspicious of the language of management and business – and I can see why, even if I think the antipathy is sometimes misplaced.  In recommending ideas and practices that hail, in part, from that quarter, I am far from doing so uncritically.  What worries me more is the extent to which 1. the Church adopts the most bureaucratic practices from the Civil Service and others and 2. uses theological language as a way of avoiding reality…What follows is the first of a series of extracts from my new book, “Creating the Future of the Church”.

“‘Management speak’ is not attractive and it is an easy target for the media and clergy alike.  But, in my experience, much of the negativity results from an inaccurate and out-dated understanding of what the best people from the business and management worlds are actually saying.  This book aims to look a bit deeper.

When I talk about organisational success I am certainly not advocating the adoption of managerial techniques or more process in the name of ‘good practice’.  On the contrary, I think there has been too much of that already and the result has been to increase the Church’s tendency to bureaucracy, making it less nimble, more inward looking and less able to act in response to the way the world is changing.”

“I have acknowledged the unattractive nature of ‘management speak’ but am just as concerned by ‘theology speak’, which is too often deployed to avoid the reality and challenge of leadership and to kick the issue into the long grass. The principal challenge of leadership is not defining or theologizing about it, but doing it…”

For more see “Creating the Future of the Church: a practical guide to addressing whole system change” SPCK September 2013. Order book here

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4 thoughts on “Management speak or theology speak

  1. Hi Keith – I s aw a note about this posting in latest issue of ‘the Wey’ – It said you were pushing for clergy to be taught ‘business’ and I wholly agree – Not just clergy but PCC members too. I was talked down a number of times at PCC meetings where I tried to compare things to ‘business’ and ‘the real world.’

    • Hi Clive, thanks for the comment. I sympathise with your experience at PCC meetings. The Church is very adept at using theological language to avoid plain realities. I’m not sure I’d say I’m pushing for clergy to be taught ‘business’ though, it’s a bit more subtle than that. Put simply we need to know and apply better what makes organisations effective – and ‘business’ is one of the best sources for that – but not the only one. Businesses have a lot to teach the Church about good practice but it is a two way street. The Church of England has been around since the 16th century – longer if you include the pre-reformation church. Few businesses last more than 20 years.

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