book review: REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Leave a comment
book review

I have this theory…and if I ever do that Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Development (after my PhD in New Testament and penning the great American novel…) my dissertation will be on my theory.

Here it is: The collapse of the mainline denominations began in the middle of the last century when clerics became “professional managers” and churches started being run as businesses.

I could say a lot about how churches absolutely positively shouldn’t be run as businesses…but the crux of my theory comes down this this: clergy make lousy businessmen and businesswomen. Or, at least most of us do.

Clergy are creatives. We’re dreamers and feelers. We don’t do details–we do “big picture.”

Even when we give a bunch of clergy a big office chock full of CEO-style office furniture, and just enough room to hang all our degrees (so we look so very professional)…what we get are…big dreams. Big pictures. People who you want by your bedside when your sick, and next to you when you’re grieving.

No matter how supple the leather furniture, you still get people who have no business running a business. You get poets and prophets, not managers and profits.

Which is why I think ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is such an incredible resource not just for people in the business world, but also for parish clergy: because it turns the paradigm of running a business totally on it’s head–and into something that is so much closer to what “church” should be.

The way most businesses, and churches for that matter, run themselves is to acquire lots of “stuff,” make the hiring of more and more “staff” a priority, have lots of “meetings,” and ABSOLUTELY get a mission statement ASAP. Increasingly churches aren’t just trying to cater to their people, but to all people. Churches are trying to be all things to all people, serving everyone with every kind of opinion under the sun, AND they’re trying to do that these days in churches with half the staff and two-thirds the budget they had ten years ago.

No wonder clergy are depressed, over-weight, and and burning out. They’re doing a job that they weren’t called to do.

Fried and Hansson say: NO. They say no to all of it, and while there are many people in the business community who need to hear this, there are also many in pulpits who need to hear it as well.

I mean just the advice that “the core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in,” is worth the price of the book. (Kindle location 642)

And: “The worst interruptions of all are meetings.” (Kindle location 803) Brilliant. I once heard some preacher say that “Jesus DIDN’T say: go forth into all the world and have meetings!” And, yet, how much of what we do in parishes are driven by having meetings? And then another meeting…

ReWork is about looking at work from a completely different perspective, trimming off all the unnecessary stuff that ends up consuming a lot of time and energy, and focusing on what you really need to do. It’s about focusing on what you need TODAY–not tomorrow or in some ten-year-plan.

It’s also an incredibly easy book to read. Chapters are broken down into digestible pieces that are sometimes no longer than a paragraph or two. AND–they’re interspersed with pictures! I mean what could be better? This is no MBA textbook, but it’s full of meat.

I think if more clergy and lay leaders read this book we’d find a way to help our congregations run that didn’t suck the life out of us or countless parishioners, and we’d rediscover why we’re here in the first place–and maybe we’d get busy doing that.

And maybe the clergy would have time to be poets and prophets once more.


The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *