December 8, 2021

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Missionaries must once again be given space in the NLM

Current form: The Norwegian Lutheran Missionary League (NLM) is now a simplified group where the management and the executive board versus the general secretary have the highest responsibility. The dispatcher wrote that this led to a significant centralization and concentration of power. Photo from a public meeting at the Oslovjord Conference Center in Vestfold. Photo: Joanna Hundveen Al-Maled

The intense debate and strong commitment that once took place at conferences and annual meetings, is now taking place in the various closed boardrooms. If you do not have an official position, there are little or no arenas where you can discuss issues related to the natural marine locally, centrally or internationally.

In recent months, there has been some focus on matters within the NLM, particularly personnel management. It is difficult to discuss personnel matters in public. So, this post will leave it that way and instead draw attention to issues that are more accessible and can be talked about in a constructive manner. Endre Stene (Day 5.10) has touched on some of what I want to get into, but I think Espen Ottosen in his answer (Day 8.10) takes the same questions a little lightly.

The routines that are dealt with various questions, situations and employees reflect an organizational culture. In some organizations, this culture is open, one that is deliberately prepared, formulated and pursued at all stages. In other organisations, it is more prevalent, different parts of the organization do not have a very conscious relationship with any guidelines, and management pursues to varying degrees.

Public bodies are subject to very strict case handling requirements. This means that things take time, but they place, and are self-imposing, very high demands for careful and proper review and presentation of issues. Such routines seem time-consuming and formal, but they guarantee the quality of the “product”, and the treatment of the case.

A mission organization is subject to the same basic conditions as any organization – for better or worse. The missionary organization aims to carry on the Word of God, and the way it relates to things and people is an expression of how we understand the Word of God itself. At NLM, we have to come to terms with the fact that we want to be measured by society otherwise, at the same time that we want to have a little extra that means we’re a Christian mission organization. Sets high standards.

In society in general, one has various means of power at his disposal. In the missionary organization or congregation/church, where the main resource is the participation of volunteers, the normal means are much less. One usually only has “soft power”, preaching, teaching, and a model/example.

There has been a major restructuring and cultural change in NLM over the past 15-20 years. This has led to better routines in some areas, and at the same time some procedures can be considered unfortunate, for example. On the staff side. But the changes also have consequences that have not yet been largely highlighted.

NLM is a large organization that manages great material values ​​and is a workplace for hundreds of people. Various areas, schools, and activities indoors and outdoors are built and woven together as required by Norwegian laws and regulations. Various councils and councils are elected and are responsible both internally and externally as required. Some of this structure was introduced into free will, because it was an expression of good practice. Other structural and operational adjustments had to be carried out reluctantly due to the issuing of orders, for example maintenance/bonus/taxes to missionaries.

The NLM is now a streamlined group where the management and the Executive Board versus the Secretary General have ultimate responsibility. This has resulted in significant centralization and concentration of power. This means that lower levels of the organization have limited power. Budgets are set at a lower level, but only adopted and enforced in the group’s total budget. s

The aker is submitted for information, but the actual issue handling and decisions are submitted to the boards of directors of the various regions/companies. The general councils of the different regions/institutions exercise their right to govern through the elections of the respective councils.

Regional Annual Meetings are large annual gatherings where you gather, speak in general, and elect different councils. The group model as a structure is now so well established that one can speak of an organizational culture that has taken hold.

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One may wonder if the group model also does not provide strong guidelines for leadership style and communication within and outside the organization. It will take a lot of space to go into it this time.

This method of organizing NLM is quite different from the previous one. NLM has always been known for its strong local commitment. Those who participated in the NLM felt an exceptionally strong ownership of the organization. It had a spiritual dimension in that they encountered a strong call to conduct missions, but it also had something to do with the way the organization was organized.

The NLM arose out of the secular movement that directed its participation through clearly democratically organized structures. All activities were subject to annual meetings where decisions/actions had to be calculated and approved for future plans and associated budget. Annual meetings are received and reports are discussed. They were carefully examined, and many boards and committees were badly damaged at times. There is a risk that various resolutions will be disqualified, or the annual meeting will raise issues that the board has chosen not to promote. Many NLM schools emerged because the district’s annual meeting was instructed by its board of directors.

In the budget details, one can read what the board of directors wants to prioritize for the coming year. Therefore, budgets were important administrative documents and their processing and approval was a clear and important issue. The discussions at the Annual Meetings were an important opportunity to highlight the main lines of the preaching and other activities, and in the various resolutions and presentations the Council received important and necessary remarks.

Often the temperature of such meetings can be rather high, but when the various parties were allowed to talk and make a clear decision, the contradictions settled. The NLM has always been a big tent, but the skilled local and central administration has been able to chart the joint responsibility in such a way that one can go in the same direction even if one can disagree on the details.

This organizational culture was also characterized by work in mission areas. The Executive Council set the framework, but it was the missionary conference that set the work in the field. It was a common understanding of the division of labor and responsibilities that created a distinct unity and community in service.

However, over several years centralization has weakened this strong local commitment and anchoring. The intense debate and strong commitment that once took place at conferences and annual meetings, is now taking place in the various closed boardrooms. If you do not have an official position, there are little or no areas where you can discuss matters relating to the natural marine locally, centrally or internationally.

Centralization over several years weakened strong local commitment and stabilization.

Annual meetings have been reduced to meetings of information and inspiration – they are now usually called in some areas the “mission festival”. As a result, many sending friends feel that their role is greatly diminished and is being codified. Where you previously had difficulty relying and listening to leadership, decisions are now made in closed rooms, and you are then informed.

As before, local work is not dynamically linked to other major parts of the organisation. One is reduced to a local herd that is expected to meet regularly and centrally support the NLM with its mission groups. Much tiredness is not to be underestimated, a kind of sadness – an intense love that is not reciprocated as before.

Was this development deliberate and deliberate? Both are yes and no. The group model is probably here to stay, but should it be used to the maximum or minimum? As I see it, we must take action so that we can restore enthusiastic commitment and ownership to our organization. Important steps could be:

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The role of the councils. Reporting to the annual meeting should be open, detailed and lay the groundwork for discussion. Plenty of space should be given to business-related conversation at the annual meeting.

The role of the annual meeting. The annual meeting must be presented for decision making. Many annual meetings are held without a single issue for discussion and decision. It is seen as a downgrade of annual meeting members and deeply disheartening.

The role of budgets. Budgets must be worked through and approved locally – within the overall framework. No action is adopted until the necessary funds are allocated. In budget, ideals meet harsh reality.

Preaching, teaching, and profile lectures with subsequent conversation and discussion should return to the program. We are pleased to have someone in the central administration who has the ability and ability to assert himself in the national media in many different areas. But we need more voices, and Christian ethics and Bible-based thinking must be preached and taught regionally and locally so that they are recognized, understood, and integrated.

The NLM leadership must be vigilant so that managerial changes do not drain the organization of spiritual and human power.

Every living thing must change, it is a sign of life. No change means stagnation and death. But a good managerial grip today could be tomorrow’s problem – which forces an adjustment afterwards.

The leadership of the NLM must be vigilant so that the management changes do not drain the organization of both spiritual and human strength. The main feature of the NLM was the vitally committed missionaries with a strong ownership of the work because it was led by God. These dispatchers must once again be given space and a voice in the organization – more than we’ve seen in recent years.

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