Culture At Large

Open-source lessons for the church

Andy Rau

Blogger Dave Warnock thinks that churches can learn from the open-source software movement. He points to an essay offering some open-source lessons for businesses and suggests that many of those lessons could be adopted by the church.

It's a lengthy essay, but worth the read. Here are the three lessons in brief, and a few thoughts from yours truly:

  1. Oftentimes, the best work comes from people who are working out of simple love for what they're doing (read: "amateurs"), not from professionals who are being paid for their work. As the article notes, this isn't a revolutionary idea--but is your church or ministry really set up to take advantage of the "ministry amateurs" in your congregation?

    Does your church assume that the "real work" of ministry must be done by professionals, and in the process miss chances to harness the enthusiasm of the community's amateurs?

  2. "Professional workplaces"--offices, cubicles, internal politics, etc.--don't always help productivity. In fact, they sometimes work against it. (As the article wryly notes, "The atmosphere of the average workplace is to productivity what flames painted on the side of a car are to speed.")

    This probably isn't as big an issue for many churches as it is for businesses, since I'm guessing that most pastors and ministers are accustomed to doing ministry in all types of environments, not just within the confines of their offices in the church building.

    But if you stretch the idea a bit, it's worth asking if a lot of traditional church work practices--hierarchies of authority, emphasis on the physical church building, the way committees and meetings are run, etc.--are due for an update. Could your church make some simple changes in its work environment that would improve its ministry effectiveness?

  3. This third lesson is related to the first: the best ideas often bubble up from the bottom instead of being handed down from the top. The article sums it up nicely:
    It's the principle of a market economy. Ironically, though open source and blogs are done for free, those worlds resemble market economies, while most companies, for all their talk about the value of free markets, are run internally like communist states.

    Is your church run like a "communist state," with the big decisions being made on high and handed down to the congregation? Do you have a way of regularly collecting feedback and ideas from the "average Joes" in your congregation? A typical churchgoer might have some great ministry ideas that your church's "ministry professionals" could help bring into focus, or vice versa.

What do you think? Would your church benefit from being a bit more "open-source" in the way that it goes about its ministry work?

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Technology, Theology & The Church