I Do Not want My Grandfather’s Church Nor Captain Kirk, by Pastor Klemet Preus

While theology does not change, management style and theory do. And these days we are experiencing a leadership style which is painfully similar to that of my Grandfather’s church but without effectiveness.


The Baby Boom took place from 1946-1964. Those born before the baby boom tend to have a top down leadership theory and style. Those at the top make decisions which those under them carry out. In this system, leaders, if they are to function at maximum efficiency must have the authority to appoint subordinates, instruct them, direct them, replace them if necessary and basically lead through giving directions. The quintessential leader of this generation is Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. He made decisions without really consulting too many people. He rarely sought the council of his detractors and he was always flying by the seat of his pants. He delegated as little as possible insisting that he was really the one to carry out most of the crucial tasks. When McCoy is complaining “Darnn it Jim. I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker,” you know that too few people are doing the work.  


This is president Kieschnick’s style – kind of. He is top down in his approach. He was the president who, in encouraging us to give our money to the synod wrote, “You’ve got it. We need it. Let’s have it.” Is that top down? You bet. When the Board of Communications Services called someone to be the assistant editor of the Lutheran Witness, President Kieschnick nixed the choice because he did not like the board’s appointee. In his fundraising visits President Kieschnick has to make the direct appeals himself. This cannot be entrusted to others. And, while President Kieschnick apparently does have his advisors, most seem to be cut from his cloth. He even beseeched the convention in 2001 to elect men of his ilk to other positions of leadership. Those vice presidents who served during his first term were used sparingly if at all. In fact the 2004 convention was the first convention in recent memory in which no vice president chaired the assembly. His first vice president was consulted neither on the Benke matter nor on other matters of crucial importance to the synod such as CCM appointments. President Kieschnick would no more listen to guys like Daniel Preus or Todd Wilken than James Kirk would heed the council of a Klingon.          


The difference between Kirk and Kieschnick is that Captain Kirk was actually willing to endanger himself for the sake of his goals and his comrades. He fought the Klingons hand to hand. He would never have hung a colleague out to dry. Are you listening David Strand? He never intimidated by innuendo or through his minions. He did it face to face by the force of his own person. Would it have taken Kirk five years to sit down and talk to NICL? No way. He would have initiated dialog immediately and would have had the confidence to be the chief spokesmen in dialog. Top down leadership must be courageous and competent.


Baby Boomers tend to be drawn to a more synergistic style of leadership. They want a leader who will invite the advice of detractors, who will surround himself with people who are experts in many diverse subjects. Baby Boomers want a leader who will say, “You’ve got it. We need it. How can you teach us to get it?” Baby Boomers don’t necessarily need a leader who has all the answers when it comes to administrative decisions. They want one who will listen to a multitude of answers and sift through them. The quintessential leader for the Baby Boom generation is Jean Luc Piccard of the Starship Enterprise. He was captian in “Star-Trek: The Next Generation”. His style was to call a meeting of all his senior staff. Here he would pose the problem, analyze it with his staff and listen to possible solutions. And his staff was a thoroughly diverse group made up of aliens, Klingons, Robots and – even some detractors. Piccard knew that you can never solve problems without making room for all within the decision making mechanism.


Of course this style actually requires a bit of trust and respect. You can’t call your detractors “speed-bumps.”   You can’t ignore them for years on end. You can’t refuse to consult anyone you think will disagree. You can’t hoard power or grasp it. You don’t push, you – well – you lead.


I’m a Boomer and I enjoyed both Kirk and Piccard. Kirk was much more exciting than Piccard. But Kirk got fat, raised horses and lived off the past. And while he had power he endangered the ship recklessly. Piccard. Ah, Piccard. I wish we could find a Piccard for the church. I sure am getting tired of my grandfather’s church.      

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