Friday, June 1, 2012

The Silo Effect in Ministry

The strength of the UMC is the Connectional System (in my opinion).  From the General Conference, to the Episcopacy, to the various agencies and commissions, on down to the Annual Conferences, Districts, and local churches.  Every local church has a connection to the others through the connection and the available resources.

But it doesn't always work ... Our often overworked District Superintendents can rarely see every church under their authority in a year's time, even when special care is needed.  And as we all know, Bishops have an awful lot on their plates as well ...

Not to mention, some congregations just insist on going against the teachings of 1st Corinthians 13 and going their own way.

Even within the local church (which I would say is the most important part of the connection, the root) there are ministries that also insist on going their own way.  There's a term for this, coined in the business community:  The Silo Effect.  I've heard this term recently in terms of structures in churches, Annual Conference offices, and above in the UMC.  Also called "information silo", "silo thinking", "silo vision", "silo mentality", and simply "siloing", here's a definition:
An information silo is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems. A bank's management system, for example, is considered a silo if it cannot exchange information with other related systems within its own organization, or with the management systems of its customers, vendors, or business partners. "Information silo" is a pejorative expression that is useful for describing the absence of operational reciprocity ... The expression is typically applied to management systems where the focus is inward and information communication is vertical. Critics of silos contend that managers serve as information gatekeepers, making timely coordination and communication among departments difficult to achieve, and seamless interoperability with external parties impractical. They hold that silos tend to limit productivity in practically all organizations, provide greater opportunity for security lapses and privacy breaches, and frustrate consumers who increasingly expect information to be immediately available and complete.  (Definition and other info found here)
Are there ministries in your church that seem to just stand alone without any connection to others?  They may be big, or they may be small.  Ministries within a church don't start out this way.  Most ministries start with support of the church staff (if not actually started by staff), who help to connect ministries to resources.  The Silo Effect can be especially troublesome if ministries are receiving budget support (often out of tradition and entitlement).

There are many ways to counteract the Silo Effect in ministry.  Number one would probably be the Council on Ministries, a meeting place for all big and small ministries of the church to facilitate communication and teamwork amongst ministry areas.  For instance, who are the usual go-to people for mission work in the church?  In my experience, the gateway to a missional church is through the youth.  Youth love to go on mission, but they're also a mission field in our communities.  It is so very important that youth ministries and mission ministries walk hand-in-hand.   But what if they're not?  A Council on Ministries (or Church Council) can help make connections.

A previous pastor of mine saw the Silo Effect all over the church I was serving.  We had a very active (and recently revamped) COM, but still there were ministries out on their own.  So we drew a 'Ministry Map' of the church and made sure that not only did all ministries and a seat at the COM, but they also were connected to the staff.  But let me be clear, the ministry areas were not always run by the staff (that's rarely a fix to anything), but for resourcing purposes, all ministry area leaders were given the assistance of a staff member to work with and bounce ideas off of.  I should also say that the moves didn't make staff members administrative assistants to ministry leaders ... More like teammates.

We know we're not called to run alone, but it happens. 

Do you see the Silo Effect happening in your local church?  Or better yet ... have you seen it happen in the global UMC?