I’ve heard the saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ repeatedly in church meetings (apparently it’s attributed to Peter Drucker). Ironically, these meetings are often strategy meetings, or meetings to develop a strategy for improving culture.
This evening I was part of a large meeting to discuss a strategy to rationalise and centralise resources in an effort to reshape ministry in central Scotland. Centralising decision making seems anachronistic in the age of devolution and Brexit, however the meeting was extremely positive and many great ideas were suggested.
But the success of these ideas will require a huge culture change in the Church of Scotland. For example, it will require the end of congregationalism and parochialism and probably also the eventual end of parishes. It will be a step towards the end of parish ministry too. It will require significant redistribution of wealth and resources at a time of increasing shortage.
And more importantly, it will require local congregations to acquiesce to the structural changes that mean they will share a paid leadership across large areas. Local voluntary leaders and non-stipendiary ministers will probably be vital not only to maintain some of the historic expectations of ministry but also to plant and grow new communities of disciples.
It is perhaps an exciting prospect. But, will structural changes bring about the necessary cultural change? Does structural change generally bring cultural change? I am genuinely unsure. I suppose a cataclysmic collapse of structures would lead to stark culture changes. But short of that, does carefully managed structural change lead to the change of heart required to birth something new in the church?
In my brief experience, most people that have done something significantly innovative in the Kirk have stepped outside of the normal structures and created cultures of their own which once successful the Kirk has embraced.
Hopefully, on this occasion, the Church of Scotland can encourage the internal cultural changes necessary to make the big structural changes happen both smoothly and quickly.