Church Planting and Public Administration

When I was in undergrad I took a class in Public Administration. I took it because I needed a Political Science credit, several friends of mine were taking it and it was with Lori Klein, a great teacher and a reasonable grader.

Honestly I expected the class to be a throw away, but it is one that keeps creeping in and having special relevance, even as a church planter. I thought I would share a couple of examples of case studies and things that have influenced the way I am looking at my work here in Detroit.

The Peter Principle– I was thinking about this as I was reading Organic Leadership the other day. In it, Neil Cole was discussing how great leaders are often siphoned out of contexts where they are doing well and promoted into other leadership roles, until they are no longer good enough to be promoted. This is the essence of the Peter Principle, which says that a person will rise to a level of incompetence. I think that it is true in a lot of churches. Consistently, ministers in great places are lured to other places with bigger pay checks, greater security and bigger budgets, until finally they either reach the top or stop being good enough to get recruited elsewhere.

Broken Windows Theory -The broken windows theory is about working in urban environments and comes from a law-enforcement and criminology background. It says that there is a provable link between the amount of crime in an urban area and how long it takes to replace a broken window. The proof of this can be seen in communities across the country like Detroit, Memphis, Washington DC and other cities I have been lucky enough to see. Often, one block or street really takes pride in their property, keeps in maintained and continues with the general upkeep of the community and the next street over seems to have let all of those things go. Not surprisingly the ladder are the areas with higher amounts of crime. You can see that from block to block in my neighborhood. My street at the next block are made up of people who have gone out of their way to work hard to create a beautiful street with kept up housing and little blight to be seen. Neighbors pitch in to mow the lawns of empty houses and litter is quickly picked up and removed. Not the case on the blocks around us. These streets are marked by consistent crime and are where most of the nightly gunfire we hear originates from.

The Dilbert Principle– The Dilbert Principle is kid of a funny take on the Peter Principle that says that though there is a large organizational structure with people making more money higher up the ladder, that all real work in any organization is done on the lowest level. This is absolutely true in church work. A friend was telling me just the other day that she didn’t particularly care for the sermon, the music wasn’t her style and the drive was kind of far, but she would be back to the church because there was such a family vibe and atmosphere and that she was treated really well. “Everyone here is so welcoming and loving. That’s why I am coming back.”

These are just a few of the things that I learned in Public Administration that are still coming back to inform the things that I am seeing here in Detroit.


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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: Flickr:

One response to “Church Planting and Public Administration”

  1. Lori Klein says :

    Coleman, you made my day! It makes me happy that you remembered, and even more happy that some of the things we talked about are proving true and useful. Thank you.

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