Generative Work

This past Saturday, the Leadership Team of Cayuga-Syracuse met for a “Summit”.  Like many councils (Session, the Theater Board, C-Suite gatherings) our normal meetings are usually caught up in the fiduciary – or required – parts of our work.  Bills need to be paid.  Forms need to be filed.  Stuff needs to be voted on.  That work is critical to managing the life of the organization.  Sometimes we have time to do some strategic work, but not often. 

We’re managing an organization.  It’s time-consuming work. As a Presbytery?  We’re managing.   Just managing.

Leadership is the sweet spot between doing that fiduciary work, strategic planning as well as generative work.  When we are able to do all three, we are leading.[1]  If we’re not doing all three, we’re working only in a managerial capacity.

It can be helpful to understand the three different aspects of governance in looking at the questions they answer:

Fiduciary:  What’s wrong?  (Fix the problem, balance the budget…)

Strategic:  What’s the plan?  How will we do stewardship/worship this year? 

Generative:   What’s the key question?  Why are we here, and who has God called us to be?

In my experience, church boards often relegate the generative work to the brief Bible study or prayer at the beginning of the meeting… and then it often serves as a reminder that God is in the room, and not a push to ask deeper questions.  When we don’t engage with generative questions, our organizations can lose touch with who they are.  We forget our very purpose, and instead focus on maintaining the status quo.

I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to apply this to our individual lives. I know I would live my life differently if I spent more time asking the generative questions… and lining up my priorities with the answers I receive. Why am I here? Who has God Called me to be?

Interested in sharing ideas about how to spend time in the generative zone?  Or how to reframe questions that move the conversation from fiduciary to strategic or generative and how to time that?  Me too!  I don’t have all the answers, but I’d love to talk with others about this.  Join me for a “Salon” on Thursday, February 13th at 11 a.m.

Blessings –


[1] Chait, R. P., Ryan, W. P., & Taylor, B. E. (2011). Governance as leadership: Reframing the work of nonprofit boards. John Wiley & Sons.

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