Risky Business?

‘Risk’ is a word on the lips of many of our Methodist leaders at the minute. They call us to take more risks which usually means releasing more of the money locked away at local church level. However, what they rarely address is why we have become so risk-averse. Church leaders cannot expect local members and ministers to take risks, if everything else that is said or done creates a culture of hostility to risk-takers. At best, there are mixed messages emerging from those who want change but cannot see how to bring it about.

Risk is also big in management and business circles. From the success of Apple and Google, to the Credit & Banking Crisis of 2008, risk is big news. Part of the work I am currently doing in Mission Discernment leads me to reflect on what prevents informed risk at the church and Circuit level. So I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions being asked in risk-averse congregations:

FAQs in a church that is NOT faithful to its calling in taking gospel-risks

Is this allowed?’ - this is a question often asked by local members who do not feel empowered or knowledgeable about the Church of which they are part. It implies that the rules are made elsewhere and imposed on them, but that knowing the rules is not an essential part of their discipleship. Rather than create an atmosphere where risks are normal, it often leads to over-caution, for fear of falling foul of the leadership.

A key part of creating a culture of faith-filled risk-taking is a clear message from leadership that risk-taking is allowed and encouraged. A model of leadership that rewards effort as well as outcome will go some way to releasing the energy at local level to innovate and responding creatively to the challenges they face.

‘Who gave you permission/authority …?’ - in an organisational culture where risk-taking is encouraged, hierarchies are diminished and contributions are welcomed from all parts of the body. In a world of increasing complexity, organisations that grasp the need to create ‘extreme teams’ embodying a diverse range of talent, expertise, experience and perspective, are more likely to thrive. Leadership in these environments is characterised by its willingness to curate and empower, rather than dominate or control. A question that demands credentials in this way seeks to limit creativity and innovation to the few.