Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reverse Engineering

According to Arleigh Crawford, "Reverse engineering is taking apart an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object."

Wise planners do their best thinking backwards: They start out w/ a goal or vision and then think about what steps would be necessary to achieve it.

Well, we can't take apart excellent ministers to see how they work so we may duplicate or enhance them. However, we can examine excellent ministers to learn how they are excellent and what made them excellent. We could use what we learn to help other ministers improve their ministries and to prepare candidates for ministry. Furthermore, a dialogue among excellent ministers about excellence might help these ministers enhance their performance. (Such dialogues using appreciative inquiry have helped individuals and organizations grow and thrive.)

Anticipating objections:

  • We don't agree what is meant by "excellence in ministry." This objection actually supports doing further study. The goal is not to achieve a single cookie-cutter answer, but to deepen our collective understanding.
  • Different ministers are "excellent" in different ways. This is a good argument for involving a number of excellent ministers and observers of excellent ministers to see the commonalities and differences.
  • Difference ministries require different kinds of excellence, e.g., being an excellent hospital chaplain may require a different set of skills than being an excellent director of a legislative ministry. This is a very interesting concern. The UUA has decided to examine candidates for ministry. It is assumed that those accepted into fellowship have the capacity to move from one ministry to another. This may be true. However, further study might reveal competencies that fellowshipped ministers might wish to strengthen before changing specialties.
  • The very idea of "excellence" will only reinforce hegemony. This objection argues for casting a wide net to get diverse perspectives on excellence. It even argues for reaching out to other denominations/religions to learn how they assess ministry.
What do you think?

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