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Gordon Smith: Institutional Intelligence

Finances and premises comprise the content of chapters eight and nine. Smith argues that leaders at every level in the organization need an understanding of the relationship between finances and mission, as well as each person’s role in pursuing sustainability. Members need clarity on the organization’s financial position and its main revenue stream. Additionally, institutions generally have multiple sources of revenue. Members need to know what those are.  Moreover, institutional intelligence requires an understanding of the space that houses the organization and how that space functions. The actual building that houses the institution is an important element to the organization’s effective functioning and the well-being of its members. Smith urges organizations to ask whether the space appropriately reflects the organization’s identity, purpose, and community, and if not, how the space can be adapted to fit.

Effective organizations care for their people and say thank you often.

Strategic partnerships are the focus of chapter ten. Because all institutions are dependent on other institutions, leaders must ask what partners are essential to the organization’s identity and fulfilment of its mission. An additional question to be asked is whether there are any relationships missing that should be established so that the institution can more effectively achieve its mission.

The conclusion identifies barriers to organizational effectiveness, and Smith stresses how important it is to orient new members to the mission, governance, and the other characteristics of the institution so that everyone can work together to maintain the organization’s identity, fulfil its purpose, and achieve the mission. Three appendices address the responsibilities of the board, institutions as places of well-being, and recommended readings on the individual topics covered in the book.

Churches, like any organization, are only as effective as how well they accomplish their mission.

The author’s leadership experience includes pastoring churches, teaching, writing, and leading a university and seminary; consequently, his examples of institutions are primarily universities and churches. These examples can help pastors understand how to cultivate the seven characteristics of intelligent institutions in their own churches. Smith stresses the importance of distinct responsibilities between executive leaders and the board and offers best practices for the board in its role to carry out the mission and purpose of the institution. And while the seven features may seem applicable to only larger institutions, there are principles in each chapter than can be lived out even in smaller congregations. After all, churches are only as effective as their mission accomplishment.

Reviewed by Michelle Vondey


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Category: Ministry, Spring 2019

About the Author: Michelle Vondey, Ph.D. (Regent University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), has more than twenty years’ experience working in non-profit organizations. Her interests are focused mainly on developing followers in their roles in organizations. She teaches courses in leadership, critical reasoning, and Christian discipleship. 2012 dissertation LinkedIn

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