The United Church of God has been limping along these past few years with one debacle after another. From a major church split to failed publicity campaigns its image is not the best in COGland.
UCG would do well to recall the minutes from it's August 13, 1998 Council of Elder's Report where it talks about how it brought in Mike Snyder to revamp its image. Snyder has along history in the Church of God. He worked in the WCG public relations department during the doctrinal and church changes and was instrumental in presenting the new face of the trinity believing WCG to the world at large. Snyder is now the Vice President of a major advertising company here in the US.
Vic Kubik renewed his relationship with Snyder years ago as he was trying to improve his own image in the UCG.
Apparently Kubik failed to heed those words of advice because controversy and suspicion has plagued Kubik and the UCG for years.“He has given me several ideas and principles to better present both myself and the church in ways where people can quickly understand and appreciate what we do and who we are,” said Mr. Kubik. “Mike showed me how I could further improve on publicly discussing the church in a way that would generate genuine interest instead of controversy or suspicion.”
A thinking person would have thought that with all the stuff that went down during UCG's apostasy from the mother church that these men would have learned to communicate better with their members. They all felt that the WCG was not communicating fully with them during that time. These guys knew better but still did nothing, but that's another story.He stated that his presentation would not address theological issues, focus on personalities or “ancient history,” or indulge in “hand-wringing” over the past. Rather, he hoped his research, applied to our position today, could be very helpful for the Council in leading and responding to the needs of the Church. “This is a forward-looking presentation that is supposed to prompt and challenge you to develop the solutions to your communications issues.”
Some of the things Snyder recommended that the United Church of God implement are:
Imagine that...the UCG Council needs to improve its image! Who knew!!!!!! This has proven to be a rather difficult thing for these boastful arrogant men to do when it came to recognizing personal behaviors that created obstacles. Even worse, they were supposed to CHANGE those destructive behaviors! Imagine that!The current state of affairs Mr. Snyder began by asking Council members to consider two quotes that portray a choice of perspectives. “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, `It might have been'” (Whittier), and “No person can lead other people except by showing them a future. A leader is a merchant of hope” (Napoleon). The first is one nobody wants to ever have to say; the second speaks to the role of church leaders in particular.
The Council, in order to improve communication and establish a strong church identity, needs to “identify organizational and personal behaviors that inadvertently create obstacles instead of opportunities, start a process of changing those identified behaviors, identify your strengths as an organization and start a process of maximizing those strengths.”
Next Snyder told the UCG Council to STOP being so defensive when crisis arise:
Being"defensive' has been one of UCG's biggest failures. Instead of talking things through and actually listening to peoples concerns they react with knee-jerk fashion creating huge turmoil where none would probably had existed if they had only listened.He encouraged the Council to not be too defensive in dealing with crises, which will inevitably arise. Defensive modes back people into corners so that any move that is made seems to make the matter worse. He also pointed out that in all aspects of society today, crises now are complicated because of the Internet, especially in the absence of good communication. “When people don’t trust what you are saying, and don’t think they are getting the information they need, what they will do is make it up, and they will put it out in any format they need,” he warned. “What do you have to do?” he asked. “You have to take control. You are the decision-making point of this whole organization you are the leadership.”
When people don't trust what UCG is saying....they then write all kinds of things about it.....YEP! We sure do! We all know the track record of the UCG.
Snyder went on to tell UCG the kind of people in their organization:
Snyder encouraged the UCG to have a goal they were working towards and to be visionary in focus:Most organizations, at any given time but especially during times of change, are made up of the following three categories of people, Mr. Snyder said:
- The “Quitters”_20 per cent of the people who are “professional complainers” and do nothing but take pot shots (every decision is wrong, no matter what it is). They have a different agenda, may actually work against organization goals, are often highly de-energized and work actively to make other people that way.
- The “Campers”_60 per cent, people who started climbing the mountain of life and at some point they got burnt out or said `I’ve had enough adversity’ and they stop and “camp out.” They are moderately-to-neutrally energized, but are willing to be directed and follow leadership.
- The “Climbers”_20 per cent of the people who have faith in something bigger than themselves and even though they face adversity they keep going; they never stop their entire lives despite setbacks and discouragement.
In the old WCG the "goal" always was...making it into the Kingdom. Now the predominate goal of most Church of God's is amassing as much wealth as possible, building campuses, auditoriums, and trying to out do the other COG's. UCG has been just as guilty of this as Pack, Flurry and Meredith.He also urged the Council to watch for personal burn out and to be aware of the signs indicating tiredness, because that affects leadership capacity. Countering deceptive myths Next, Mr. Snyder reviewed one author’s listing of various myths that affect views of business, and identified how truly visionary leadership creates success. Visionary companies “are significantly less likely to have early success but, like the tortoise and the hare, win the long race often after a slow start.” They communicate a vision for big goals, consistently champion and live by right core values and do not change them (“When you start messing with the core values, you take away the very thing that made it successful,” he said).
Snyder then told them to stop focusing on money and to build credibility in leadership.
Imagine that, the lay members given ownership and energized in the structure of the Church of God! Its hard to imagine any COG giving its members a say in what happens in the church. Almost every single COG is ruled by a cabal of men who wield power stronger than the Pope could ever hope for. Here it is quit apparent that UCG has failed in this area immensely!Another business myth he noted is that one should focus primarily on beating the competition. In reality, healthy, visionary organizations focus primarily on beating themselves they never think they’ve done good enough and are always seeking to improve their own performance. Additionally, visionary organizations make some of their best moves not by brilliant and complex strategic planning, but by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism and sometimes by accident. “Visionary organizations do not brutalize themselves with `the tyranny of OR,'” he said. Rather, “They embrace `the genius of AND'” the view that allows them to pursue “A” and “B” at the same time. He offered, for a church example, various efforts to preach the gospel both locally and centrally. Successful businesses focus on clusters of objectives, rather than making money. Income is a by-product of achieving other fundamental objectives, such as exemplary service. In the contemporary church context where there are several organizations, he noted that people are still committed to tithing, but will send their tithes to where they believe there is value. If you are focused on the right objectives, people will want to support your efforts, he said. Building credibility as the foundation of leadership “Leadership is a relationship,” Mr. Snyder said. Telling people to “do this” or “do that” is command and control. People find you much more credible if you give them ownership, energize them and we do it together. People march in step because they trust you, believe in you and you have a relationship with them.
Credibility is a huge issue in the UCG, as it is in all the other COG's. Snyder goes on to state:
Bravo to Snyder for making such a statement to the UCG hierarchy. They have a horrendous track record of covering up scandals. From rapes, to stalkings, to child abuse and much much more its all been swept under the rug and kept from members. I wonder how many UCG members know that the UCG paid money to cover up a stalking case in the Pacific Northwest some years ago in an attempt to brand the victim a liar?“If you have no credibility, you can only govern on the basis of fear,” he said. “The higher degree of credibility you have, the more you get done, the more you attract people. Your organization becomes a magnet, as opposed to a person.” Reasons for cynicism The book Credibility lists several reasons why people become cynical in business, Mr. Snyder said, and the same principles can apply to the church. One is scandal. Organizations cannot avoid scandals, because of the human element somebody will eventually do something scandalous so you just prepare for them. However, most people want to cover them up and they just become “skeletons in the closet.” From a scandal perspective, you beat cynicism by open acknowledgment, recognition of repentance, he advised.
Snyder next focused upon "betrayal." Though sadly I have a feeling that most of the men listening to this feel they are martyrs in this regard. They were betrayed by their mother church. They ignore the fact that they betrayed the WCG by plotting behind the scenes for months to form UCG while still on WCG payroll. They betrayed friends and church members by causing huge divisions in the church. Many of these martyrs only jumped ship for the steady income stream. The list could go on and on. Who betrayed who? Tkach betrayed all of these martyrs? Did they betray the WCG?
Betrayal is another big producer of cynicism. “Everybody in this room has gone through emotional disconnects in the last decade,” Mr. Snyder pointed out. “You get cynical about it when betrayed by a leader.”
Only if.............. When pigs fly....unfortunately.People then sometimes make judgments based on cynical feelings “I’m not going to join this group because everyone’s just as bad as the one I came out of.” Disillusionment brings on skepticism. People believe in something, give it a chance, and then it fails or doesn’t work to their expectation; distrust results. Another is suspicion of power the “who’s-really-in-charge?” cynicism. From cynicism to restored faith Several dynamics can begin to restore faith. Clear accountability is critical, the type where people know you are accountable to them, even if you are their leader. That feeling instills greater faith. Giving clear messages (not hazy sayings), creating organizational enthusiasm, living personal values that are consistent with organizational values, and fostering a sense of shared “ownership” (everyone feeling like they are an important part of things) are other very important factors. Some operate by the maxim, Mr. Snyder said, of, “Do what you say you will do.” This is the minimum standard but even that might not effectively build credibility. The better standard that does build credibility is, “Do what WE say WE will do. “Evaluating the tone of the messages in UCG publications His review of all the church communications brought to light several trends, Mr. Snyder observed. He advised the Council not to be too defensive or justifying in tone, nor to dwell much on past mistakes. Being defensive means you are not solution-oriented, and such tone saps peoples’ strength, he said. “You’re not supposed to be defensive, you are supposed to be [on the] offensive, the spearhead, showing the way to go by example.” Over time, the church’s key phrases (e.g., “spirit of Indianapolis,” “a Godly community”) have become diluted, are now irrelevant to the membership and have even been used as a club over others, he said.
Snyder then tells them to stop living in the past. This has been a huge issue with all the COG's. They all look back at the "glory days" of WCG with fondness and longing. Not a single one of them will EVER be able to do that. Bitterness seems to still burn mightily in so many of these men and COG's.
While we need to develop our own terminology, we should stay away from abstractions that anybody else in the world with any religious affiliation would also be comfortable using. To turn around these tendencies, he advised a three-part solution:
- Decide on the key messages that need to be communicated. This decision is clarified by asking, “What issues are most important to the UCG?” and “How can these issues be better expressed?”
- Be better aware of and consistently address two key issues: a lingering sense of betrayal and burnout
UCG and all the COG's can think of nothing BUT 1986 and its previous years. Is it any wonder why UCG is not growing? No one CARES about 1986! Get over it already!!!!
- Develop a new mindset that is truly forward-looking and de-emphasizes recent history (“You’re not selling ancient history,” he said. “Have you had anyone baptized in the last year? What do they care about 1986? Are they more into first love or digging up things to find out how bad it was?”)
Snyder encourages UCG to acknowledge CONFLICT in the church. That's has been one bitter pill to swallow and they are still trying to do it! UCG has always presented its self as the most unified COG to ever exist. while its structure crumbles down around them.
Snyder's last comment rings so true about most of the larger COG's today. They present the image that they are conflict free and the most unified COG's to exist in 1,900 years. They can only do this because their members have been "de-energized" and turned into non-thinking robots.Suggestions for improving communication After analyzing one example of communication to the church (the April 2, 1998 member letter), Mr. Snyder offered several observations for making improvements. First, he confirmed that it is usually constructive to acknowledge conflict. Such acknowledgment promotes open honesty, shows that the leadership is sensitive, listening and willing to act and is congruent with the stated UCG objective of defending the faith. Conflict, he pointed out, is not always bad and within a certain context it can indicate a healthy condition. For example, total lack of conflict indicates mind-control and/or a de-energized, non-thinking group.
Snyder tells them in order to visionary they need to "look forward."
Most of the COG's should have actually named themselves, The Boo-Hoo Church of God. They live in the past glorifying dead leaders, dated literature and failed prophecies. "Look at us, we are the only true remnant holding on to the truth and no one wants to join us, boo-hoo. The WCG changed doctrines...boo-hoo. They sold all the campuses...boo-hoo. Tkach told us to stop abusing members....boo-hoo."Second, develop a new view of success, he advised. “Look forward, not backward.” Historically, the Radio Church of God that formed out of the Church of God, 7th Day, was “a true splinter that made it” because it became a visionary organization. Next, identify your one key message and make sure it is embraced and cherished at all levels.
Snyder then closed with this:
Snyder is right in that NOTHING UCG has done lately has "grabbed' any one or caught their attention. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on failed advertising public campaigns which have produced zilch. Incredibly BAD TV shows have not brought in members. Publishing booklets patterned on old WCG literature has also failed.Finally, leaders must “over-communicate” in times of crises. To implement these points, it is important to “start at zero,” he said. That means looking in fresh ways at communication and asking, “because we communicated one way in the past, is it still the best way?” Talk to the individual, build the relationships between people. Defining your own “brand” Being proactive in leading and communicating is critically important, Mr. Snyder stressed, because of this rule: If you don’t manage your reputation, someone else will! To draw a parallel, he said that in business terminology the United Church of God is a “brand.” In other words, people identify certain things with UCG, as they do with other church organizations. Your “brand” is important because it identifies you or your group by defining a promise or perception of consistently fulfilled promises. We should ask ourselves, either as an individual or as a group, “What is it that my service does that is different? Why is it good? What am I known for? Whatever you answer, if the answer doesn’t grab you, you’ve got a big problem.”
UCG had a chance 20 years ago to reinvent its self into something "good." However it preferred the old ways and clung bitterly to the past. It kept the same abusive ministers in charge, it kept the same abusive polices they claimed to have suffered under in WCG. All UCG could do was imitate its past and its been a massive failure.
It remains to be seen how visionary or forward thinking they will become, because so far that have no vision.