The Organizational Missionary: Planting the Seeds of Change

This week it is my plan to create a ripple in the waters of the American Fire Service. Let me explain the nature of the stone that I am tossing into our collective pond.

These same people then proceed to wonder why their people are working according to their own individual self agendas. These "leaders" are wondering why they are having trouble rallying the troops around the flagpole at the center of their organization. The Bible covers this one my friends. I suggest that these folks are just reaping the seeds which have been sown by them and our society in general as it has evolved over the past few decades.

Since I am going to ask you to plant some seeds within the soil of your organizational world, it is probably a good idea for you to think about the societal soil with which we must deal in this the 21st Century. If you are getting on in years, do you think it is the same societal soil that you and I grew to adulthood in? If you are a younger person, do you even care that society has changed in the last few decades? Is the impact the same if you are in the generation between the X, Next, and Boomers cavalcade? Believe me when I say that it is important for all of you to look at this concern.

The issue of societal soil is of critical importance because that is where you have to plant the ideas for changing your fire department. Along these lines, let me give credit where credit is due. It was my good fortune to hear a truly outstanding sermon in church this past Sunday. It was preached by Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America. We were fortunate that he was able to take time from his busy schedule to help our congregation celebrate 150 years of sharing faith in the Colts Neck, New Jersey community.

His words were truly inspirational, drawing upon the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi and the Holy Bible. While he was challenging us to grow the Christian faith in our community, I saw an immediate cross over to the world of the fire service. He was speaking on the need to plant our seeds of faith into the soil of our current society in order to grow and nurture our flock.

In my mind I began to ponder the problems of planting the seeds of good leadership in our fire organizations in order to build a solid foundation for the people who will follow us in the future. He spoke of the problems with our soil right now. He spoke of how few people were actually attending an organized religious movement in America today. He spoke of the millions who never worship in a given week. The shocking part of this was that the numbers have doubled in the last decade.

Reverend Granberg-Michaelson then spoke to the actual flaws which have worked to make the soil of our soul so hard to till these day. He heavily referenced Gandhi when he spoke of the following weaknesses running rampant in American society today:

They seem to be just as applicable as they were in Gandhi's time. Let me add one thought of my own. There has been a growth in the feeling that the world owes us a living. That one goes back beyond Jiminy Cricket, the Walt Disney character of my youth who sang a cute little song with that same title during the cartoons I watched on the weekly Walt Disney Hour.

How are you and I going to plant the seeds of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication into a soil tainted with such a wide array of negatives? It will not be easy. Nothing good or worthwhile in life ever is. It is up to us to stand toe-to-toe with those who take the negative posture of the naysayer.

Both a faith in God (or your choice of a Supreme Being) and a faith in the good works (and future potential) of your fire department require you to believe in something that grows beyond the boundaries of your human body. You must have faith in the actions of others.

Whether you are working as a Pastor or a Fire Chief, the rules and needs are the same. According to Reverend Granberg-Michaelson you must bring people into your organization. You must build them up to be a productive part of your organization. You must then turn them loose to do the good things for which they have been trained and indoctrinated.

Bringing someone into your organization requires you to reach out to them and share your beliefs with them. Initially, you need to listen more than you need to speak. To do this you need to create a vision that meets the identified needs of your organization and your community. Portray that to potential newcomers, then sit back and listen to their thoughts.