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On Efficiency and Ants

Everything

On Efficiency and Ants

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

The institutional church, as it grapples with cultural change in the form of declining attendance and giving, tends to preserve the status quo. Members take actions toward a stronger system — earthquake-proofing, a new roof, remodeling the foyer to let in more light. Incremental improvements. New efficiencies. Streamlining.

But what if it’s time to move to a new neighborhood? To leave the old building behind and start on a journey into the unknown?

People don’t like the unknown.

We’d rather work “smarter.”

I dropped a piece of doughnut on the floor, and it’s covered with ants. Two ants are hauling off a section while a third crawls around on top. A fourth and fifth ant push and pull, stopping the portion’s progress for a moment before letting it go again. And despite the chaos, the work gets done. The doughnut disappears and so do the ants.

I already miss the doughnut. But also, I wonder –

What’s wrong with redundancy? Why do we need to streamline? To make processes more efficient? Aren’t these kinds of discussions based on the premise that some people are unnecessary?