Why Pastors Need to Listen to “Manager Tools”

See how this generic business graphic looks like a stained glass window? Hmmm…

Robert turned me on to Manager Tools, a free podcast about managing people and projects. I’ve started jumping around, listening to topics that interest me, and have heard enough to recommend it here for church pastors. Not everything applies to the ministry, but enough does to make it worth your while to poke around the site.

I don’t have a lot of patience for people who pooh-pooh the whole “church as business” thing. No, we are not, strictly speaking, a business. And yes, we care about more than “success” or the profit motive. Yes, subsisting solely on business and leadership books is pretty thin gruel for the pastor. But get over yourself. A business is a group of people who have a mission and are trying to meet it together. Movin’ on.

Yesterday while running I listened to a podcast called And Not But Meeting Ground Rule. Pretty clunky title, but the idea is that in meetings, you should encourage people to expunge the word “but” from their vocabulary: “Dave thinks we have the money to do this, but I disagree.”  ”We should have completed this task by the deadline, but nobody stepped up to do it.” “BUT Sarah, we already tried that.”

“But” drives a wedge and highlights conflict where there may be no conflict, just simple disagreement. And disagreement is OK, even healthy. The Manager Tools guys suggest “and” instead. The two contrasting views are still perfectly clear, and you’ve managed to diffuse any antagonism that might arise.

Here’s a situation in which the manager tools are especially well suited for a church context. The Bible is full of and-not-but. Sure, there’s that section where Jesus says, “You have heard it said… BUT I say to you.” But in general, (and in general!), the Bible is filled with disparate and sometimes even contradictory statements that sit side by side.

John 3:16: you must believe in order to be saved
AND Matthew 25: you must behave ethically in order to be saved

Just to name one example. There’s no “but” there. Is John right or Matthew? Yes, depending on context and situation.

The podcast quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Indeed.

One note. Some of the podcasts are meatier than others. This particular episode conveys a very simple idea that’s easy to grasp in just a few minutes, but I find the guys entertaining enough that I listened to the whole thing.

Pastors, do you borrow from the business world? What are you liking these days?

4 thoughts on “Why Pastors Need to Listen to “Manager Tools”

  1. Mary Thorpe

    I came to ordained ministry from the business world and use the skills I learned there all the time, particularly in meetings. My corollary to the but_and rule is that people also should offer an alternative idea if they disagree with what has been proposed. I try to make meetings a safe place to brainstorm, so folks aren’t shy about thinking creatively. I’m looking forward to checking out this podcast.

    Reply
  2. Rachel Heslin

    I’ve expanded on the “and” replacement with, “at the same time…” because it more strongly acknowledges and reaffirms both the validity of the initial statement and the parity of the two views.

    Reply

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