The Edge

“Adaptive leadership moves the system to the edge of chaos – not over, but to the edge of it. Followers want comfort, stability, and solutions from their leaders, but that’s babysitting. Real leaders ask hard questions and knock people out of their comfort zones and then manage the resulting distress.” (Alan Hirsch, Faith of Leap).

A few years back, I pick up the term “organized chaos” from reading “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations.” Essentially, I took it to mean that as a leader, I want to create environments that are at once chaotic and also organized.

Taking from Hirsch’s quote above, I believe the job of the leader is to bring a group, an organization, or in my case, a junior high ministry, to the “edge.” With an approach like this, it guarantees resistance and feedback from followers (or parents). The edge is scary. It’s uncertain. We fear chaos and disorganization. We fear what could hurt us. We fear, ultimately, the edge, because the edge is dangerous.

But the alternative, in my opinion, is much scarier. Think about a junior high ministry that is merely safe, secure, and good at creating little robotic, conformist junior high students who claim to follow Jesus. As Bader Saye notes, “Being locked in a padded room is very safe, but it’s hardly a life.” (Don’t hear me saying we DON’T want safety – cause we do).

Here’s what the “edge” or “organized chaos” is:
* Events that disrupt the status quo
* Challenges that go beyond “read your bible” or “pray more.”
* Actions that attract non-Christians but make some Christian parents uneasy.
* Disruptions to safety and security and in turn replaced by more tangible examples of following Jesus.
* Actions that create a real buzz without causing damage or harm to anyone (or anything) involved.

I have two examples where I took a group to the “edge.”

A few years back, while a youth pastor in Las Vegas, I asked our youth ministry to put together sack lunches and then deliver them to the homeless with the help of their parents. I received a call from a mom concerned about her daughter interacting with a homeless man. The “edge” is getting students to engage real, suffering human beings. Of course, I didn’t want her simply walking around late at night delivering lunches by herself, but I do want a student to engage the “edge.”

The second example is what happened two weeks ago. Read here:

We bought 1000 pounds of flour, 3000 water balloons, free pizza, and other fun activities. We asked students to invite their friends to hear the Gospel and participate in the Spring A Palooza. Although you might be thinking, come on, this is hardly the “edge,” it was because of the amount resistance we received from concerned parents (and some school administrators). It was a fairly safe “edge,” to be honest, but it was exactly the kind of “organized chaos” we wanted to create (and honestly, I tend to think some dissenting voices are good because that means I’m on the right track).

And honestly, it was a Kingdom moment, to see cool, uncool, popular, unpopular, hurting or not hurting 11 to 15 year olds throwing goop on one another and just being a kid made in the image of God.

Plus, we have 139 students respond to Jesus for the first time.

Here’s the point: If we are always making decisions as leaders to provide safety and security, we aren’t completely doing our job. We must, as leaders, be willing to disrupt the equilibrium, the status quo, and take groups to the edge of chaos and be willing to quiet the dissenting voices and problems that may incur.

But I can tell you, you will NOT get the results you desire by simply striving for status quo, safety, and security.

Where is your “edge?” How are you creating “organized chaos?”