© 2010 Ross Christopher Donaldson.
I’ll be honest; I get tired of hearing leaders explain their gatherings, groups, and organizations, as “organic” and “grassroots.” It’s nauseating actually. Not because the words are overused (which they are), or because they’ve become the cliché leader-words-to-use (which they have), but because most of my experiences have shown nothing organic or grassrootsy at all. Instead, most people use these descriptors any time the facility is less than appealing, old ratty couches are used for seating and considered chic, and the lighting is more than 80% candlelight.
I think these words, in the leadership sense, were intended to describe the ways in which delegation, creation, and implementation were handled. Not the former. I think something truly organic is truly natural. Organic-ness is sans manipulation, sans hype, sans gimmick, and sans fad.
For example, organic foods must be deemed completely natural. A truly organic, free-range, cow eats what grows naturally. It has never seen hormones to beef up the size and speed at which it matures. It roams through natural fields and pastures, and never sets foot in a manipulated feed lot. When finally butchered, the cow is typically smaller and cost more to produce; but the harvest is natural, sustainable, and good. The harvest is organic. (and now I’m hungry for a T-bone)
In the same way, a church, organization, or group that spends less time with gimmicks, manipulation, and hype; in the long run, will be more honest, real, and healthy. The truly organic church, organization, or group will build a network that works, because it will rise and fall together, experience triumph and pain together, and will win and lose together.
The real quest though, is how to create this type of organic-rootsy-network environment. As natural as it is, and should be to create (or re-create), is unfortunately something of a mystery. It’s a mystery because it has become counter cultural. The mainstream culture pushes hype and manipulation all day long. And they do this, because it works – for a while.
I recently read that the average American sees more than 3,000 advertisements each day. That’s 3,000 times each and every day, a company or organization is trying to push their products, goods, and desires (driven by stockholders, payrolls, and agendas) on you and I, the consumer. They have appropriately named this, push-marketing. However, you and I the consumer hate to be marketed to! We may not verbalize it, but deep down inside we want to eat a Krispy Kreme because we like and desire Krispy Kreme’s; not because an advertising firm duped us into consuming a days worth of calories in one mid-morning snack.
Now use that reasoning on your church or your organization or your group. How much money, time, and effort have been put in creating a marketable experience or program? Were there payoffs? Sure there were. Were they maintainable? Are they still sustaining? Some yes. Some no.
Now consider your closest inner-circle of friends and family. How long have you been tight, real, and authentic? How many dollars did you spend to win their affection? What types of programs did you create and morph to sustain these friendships or kinship's? Most likely (and hopefully) none. Rather, you gave your all – your secrets, dirty laundry, honesty, and ear – and the outcome is priceless and irreplaceable.
These are the types of organic-rootsy-networks that are needed. They begin with you. You must become more transparent, more willing to relinquish power and fame, more honest and vulnerable, and give more time. You are now (as an individual) part of the collective. It will not all be up’s, up’s, and more up’s. But it will be honest, real, and sustainable.