In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge explains the value of alignment: “[W]hen a team becomes more aligned, a commonality of direction emerges, and individuals’ energies harmonize.” He goes on to write, “Individuals do not sacrifice their personal interests to the larger team vision; rather, the shared vision becomes an extension of their personal visions. In fact, alignment is the necessary condition before empowering the individual will empower the whole team.” (pp 234-235). Alignment precedes empowerment.
Senge’s idea is that everyone is going somewhere but is there some way to get everyone to either put alter their goals so that everyone can move in the same direction? Very often an individual’s goal can even be seen as an important part of attaining the larger organizational goal, becoming a win-win situation for all concerned.
One of the biggest challenges of leading a church is achieving some level of alignment, at least in vital functions such as doing mission and living into a vision. Churches are made up of people with varied gifts and talents that can be released for mission. At the same time, people come with different needs, many of which are based on the specific life stage in which a person finds himself for herself.
For example, in the same congregation are youth and young adults making choices about vocation and calling, young adults birthing and raising children, median adults dealing with aging parents and growing adolescents, and older adults concerned with health issues and wise investment of time and resources. Each has his or her own challenges, opportunities, and needs.
Difficulties develop when one of these normally caring, responsible individuals puts on blinders and starts thinking only of their own needs and goals. Indifference and self-centeredness impair alignment.
How can church leaders deal with this?
First, involve more people in intergenerational experiences. Whether it is worship, Bible study, or community service, we must find ways for people of different generations and in various stages of life to interact with each other and understand the various needs and goals represented among members of the church.
Second, find ways for people in different stages of life to minister to one another. Youth and young adults can assist incapacitated older adults with yard and home maintenance. Adults of all ages can provide childcare assistance during worship services and teaching to preschooler, children, and youth.
Children can lead worship that is both God-honoring and fresh.
Third, provide opportunities for people of all ages to share their spiritual journeys with others. The wisdom of age as well as the idealism of youth provides new insights about how God continues to work.
Fourth, try to think of each other as family. In a healthy family, no one person gets their way all of the time. We learn how to take turns and share. The same attitude is needed in the life of the church.
If we can do these things, we will be ready to align our lives around a common vision of empowerment and mission.