“But Steve Jobs realized that when people run into each other,
when they make eye contact, things happen.”
Matt Woodley, Leadership Journal, summer, 2013
I have twelve to fourteen years as your pastor before I retire. This reality has placed me among those who are asking, “What legacy do I wish to leave, what difference do I hope to make in this place.” This is a common question people in their fifties ask. Most of us want our lives to count for something; to live for something larger than ourselves. When your fifties roll around, that question receives considerably more attention.
It is no secret that my most urgent passion is to engage increasing numbers of people in intentional Christian formation. I want to move people from membership to discipleship. The difference is considerable. Members are always seeking privileges like those who carry an American Express Card. Disciples are always asking how they may be used in a mighty way for advancing God’s purposes. Members spend a good deal of their time thinking about their wants and needs. Disciples spend a good deal of time seeking God’s presence at work in their communities and then joining God in that work. Members focus on themselves. Disciples focus on others.
Solid Christian formation is always the work of God in our intentional engagement with classic spiritual disciplines such as solitude, reading and applying the Bible to our lives and participation in a small group. God does something and we do something. Christian formation requires both.
Something else is helpful – a professional church staff that shows us the way forward. Church staffs, ordained clergy and lay staff, work together to pray, think creatively and develop ministries that support, encourage and direct the holy environment where we grow as Christians.
Yet, for staffs to bring maximum value to an organization, they must be “forced to interact, to run into each other regularly.” That idea was advanced by Steve Jobs when work was being done on a new Pixar facility. “Things happen,” said Jobs when people make regular eye contact and speak with one another throughout the day. What happens is a creative force that simply is absent when staffs are isolated from one another.
When Pixar became a huge international success following the release of the movie Toy Story, there were plans for three separate buildings to accommodate the growth of the company. One building would be for the animators, another for the computer programmers and a third for the management. But Jobs scrapped that plan and instead moved everyone into an old Del Monte canning factory that had one huge room with an atrium in the center. Jobs wanted to create a space where people throughout the company could bump into each other, deepen relationships, and share ideas. The idea worked and the level of creativity released by the staff soared beyond anyone’s expectation.
To maximize the value of this church’s staff, I want the same thing as Pixar – I want the staff to all be under one roof where we can bump into one another all day, deepen relationships, and share ideas. Naturally, this will require careful thought for the renovation or expansion of our church facilities. Organizations rarely build just to have more or newer buildings. Buildings are tools for advancing the mission of the organization. We can take a page from the playbook of the Holly House; they understood that their ministry would advance if they could all be in the same room where there was greater interaction with one another. Today they have that facility. It’s the same story with Pixar. I hope one day it will be the story for your church staff.