Using a biblical approach to increase organisational awareness
by Chris Bemrose
Renewal of an organisation’s mission and identity is often done by such techniques as SWOT analysis, but this tends to be superficial. To renew an organisation’s heart, try biblical study, even with non-Christian organisations and individuals.
The importance of organisational awareness
It is easy for organisations to lose a sense of their essential identity. This, perhaps, may be seen in the roots to the recent financial turmoil as so many financial organisations moved into the sub-prime mortgage business without fully appreciating what was involved or how it fitted with their central purpose. It might equally be seen in the rush amongst so many well established building societies to demutualise in the 1980’s, providing shortterm benefits for members but often at considerable long-term cost as they struggled with the financial climate of the 21st Century. Organisations, following what is thought to be the latest trend or ‘good practice’ fall into a conformist trap. Fear of being different leads organisations to lose their distinctiveness and creative individuality.
In biblical terms, they become conformed to the world, ‘me-too’ organisations, often becoming self-serving in the process. Greed and vanity can often play a role in this. This is not always easy to recognise at the time. Reading and reflecting on biblical passages can, however, provide a powerful way to help us to become more aware of the forces which, often unconsciously, shape and form us and our organisations. I remember one discussion on the application of Jesus’ temptations in the desert to my own organisation, L’Arche, an organisation concerned with building communities around the gifts and needs of people with learning disabilities1 . The temptation to turn stones into bread was seen as the temptation to measure everything in terms of productivity. In this, we have no time to appreciate the unexpected and unplanned happenings that make for a full life.
Factors such as relationships, compassion and beauty easily become neglected. Jesus being promised the whole world if only he would worship the devil was seen as the temptation towards empire building and growth for its own sake. Jesus being tempted to throw himself off the temple, knowing that angels would protect him, was seen as the temptation to go for the spectacular when one is called to the ordinary but essential of the day-to-day. No doubt other people and other organisations would interpret the temptations differently. What was important was thinking what temptations might look like so that they are recognised for what they are. I provides a simple example of the importance of organisations being self-aware.
Establishing organisational identity Organisations that have lost their sense of identity are like the salt that has lost its taste. They become prisoners of…