Last week I had the amazing privilege to serve the Christians in a Central Asian country with an oppressive government. My assignment was to help an indigenous organization become more effective in accomplishing its mission and to become a viable partner with organizations in the West who want to help them. My training was intended to help them work on their organization, not just in it or for it. The idea that all 40-some staff members are responsible to build an excellent organization was new for most of them. They are invested in doing the organization’s mission, evangelism, acts of mercy, etc. They do not intuitively see the need to build a better organization.
When I inquired about this, the answer I received was historical. The people have been taught that someone else is responsible to make decisions. They have been subjected to oppressive governmental control for so long that they have lost the expectation of self-determination. Regular people do as they are told. Leaders determine organizational direction. Leaders are inaccessible and capricious, to be feared and avoided. Regular people do not get involved in organizational leadership.
So, most of the staff was confused when I started the training event with the expectation that we were going to invest a week in building an excellent organization. They had a difficult time understanding why they should do that. They did not want to do it. Their first instinct was to push that work back to the “leadership.”
However, we persevered with the training. I was relieved as I watched the energy level in the room increase day by day. Even though the work we were doing was laborious and the concepts were difficult to understand, many of the staff began to own the idea that the organization belonged to them. If it is going to become a great organization, they need to take responsibility. By the end of the very full four days of training, there was a new enthusiasm for their organization.
Now that the training is over and we have all returned to our homes, I hope that the ideas that I introduced will persevere in the minds and hearts of these precious godly servants. May they continue on the track to build an excellent organization. They recognize that they will need ongoing coaching and have already invited me back.