Not Just Universities

How does this apply to churches?

For example, in a framework presented by Cook-Greuter (here), there are three conventional stages of adult human development in which  77% of adults typically find themselves:  diplomatexpert, and achiever.

  • In diplomat, an individual makes meaning by conforming with group norms, and a leader in diplomat will often use words, like “family” and “loyalty” to describe what is important to them at work.
  • In expert, an individual makes meaning through exercising and advocating the expertise of his or her discipline.  Other disciplines are typically less enlightened than the expert’s, and sarcasm and phases such as “yes, but…” rule the expert’s speech.
  • In achiever, an individual makes meaning through making goals and getting results with others, and disciplinary expertise gives way to working with others to get the job done.  Deadline and metric talk rule the speech of the achiever….

To those inside the university, none of this is particularly noteworthy, except to say that expert is a very early stage of adult development. And here’s the rub. To the extent that universities are organized to keep their faculty in expert, they retard their development as adults, and keep them in a relatively immature stage. In business, the move to achiever occurs relatively early for someone rising through the leadership ranks. In universities, it is fairly common to enter as an Assistant Professor and exit as a Professor Emeritus and be in expert the whole time.

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  • Joe Canner

    I would disagree somewhat with the notion that university professors are stuck in “expert” mode. This is probably more the case where professors do mostly teaching, but in research universities, professors are much more than just experts: pursuing funding sources, gathering and managing (often inter-disciplinary and/or inter-collegiate) teams, etc.

    As to the application of this to churches, I think there is a definite danger of pastors being overly satisfied with being experts and not helping the church to pursue challenging projects and ministries. At the same time, I don’t think churches should blindly buy into this model, which was developed for the business world. Each church and each pastor need to use their gifts as God has provided, not according to a formula. Moreover, as the author writes: “…developmental theorists are careful to say that later stages are not better or worse than earlier stages.”

  • Kel

    Not sure about churches, but I work at a state university and have not found the above to be true. Most of the professors I have met (I work in communications for a department) are diplomats and the students’ remarks about the family atmosphere of their particular department tell me that we are doing more than cultivating experts (ooops, I spoke like a diplomat).

  • Greg Bagley

    Pastors and church leaders in small to medium sized churches seem to fit and remain in the expert category. Many, if not most, but not all, mega-church (senior) pastors learn how to get the job done with their pastoral team. Thus, they become achievers. I have known a couple of exceptions to this generalization with senior pastors of mega-churches and they seem to go through a 3-5 year cycle in which supporting pastors leave and the congregation declines in numbers as a result. Due to the senior pastor’s charisma they have rebounded thus far.

  • AHH

    The implication of this post is that church leaders who do not become “achievers” are falling short?

    Deadline and metric talk rule the speech of the achiever
    I would not say we need more such talk in churches by any means.

    All 3 of these categories have value in the Body of Christ, including among leaders. To elevate “achievers” above the others seems as wrong as elevating one spiritual gift above another — the different parts of the Body are designed to function together and no single part should be considered normative.