Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on UMC Bureaucracy

I love the United Methodist Church.  Born into it, baptized, confirmed, and converted within, now serving as an ordained elder.  I love our church, I love our theology. 

But, as the old saying goes, we kid because we love. 

I read this tweet from@amforbus on Twitter.  If you aren't familiar with Twitter check it out -  You can follow me, I'm @atstod.  Anyway, this was @amforbus' recent tweet: 

Methodists may sprinkle for baptisms, but we immerse when it comes to bureaucracy.

I think that is funny, true, and a little said. We Methodist were historically a flexible bunch.  In revival days when the Methodist church was the biggest in the nation (yes, there was  time when that happened!) we went to where the people were. We went, we preached, we ministered.  We knew that the people and message mattered most.  

Now, today, we know they matter. . . . . . but, you know. 

We have to do things the right way.  I was a conference recently and one of the speakers talked about how the surest way to crush innovation is to push innovation into a certain "way."  There is only one "way" to innovate.  Methodists do it one way, Baptists another, Catholics another.  Instead of focusing on the bigger mission, we focus on the means to provide the mission. And the mission must be provided in a certain way for it to be valid.  

And there in lies the rub.  Bureaucracy is not in itself bad.  Hierarchy is not in itself bad.  Structure is not bad. But, when these things stop being a means to end, and become the end, then we have a problem.  

An no matter the organization, be it a Church, Business, Club, whatever. When the means becomes the end, then things become backwards. 

So, in short, we must focus everything, bureaucracy, everything on achieving that end. And, by use any means necessary to achieve that end. 

And in doing that, we'll recover what it means to be mission minded.  Not institution minded.  


  1. Good thoughts... thanks for putting them out here.
    (aka amforbus)

  2. Thanks for getting the conversation started. And John Wesley for retwitting!