Theory X and Theory Y

Some of you may have guessed that the failure with Jethro I was that it didn’t take into account the needs and value of the individual. Sure, Jethro’s original advice to Moses mentioned not wearing people out, but the focus of the system is on the benefits it provides to management/leaders and on getting the work done. Absent from the picture is the emphasis on the individual.

This is very similar to the theory of human motivation known as Theory X. While Theory X goes a little to the extreme in its viewing employees as lazy and as being motivated to only do as little work as possible, the similarities are still present between Jethro I and Theory X. Jethro I assumes that it is up to the leaders to get the work done and that without top-down management things won’t work correctly. “Trusted people” have to be appointed to positions of responsibility since “regular people” can’t be trusted to do the work. We set up criteria for who can be included in activities and who is allowed to perform certain tasks (i.e., can a non-Christian pass a communion tray).

On the other side of Theory X is Theory Y. Theory Y recognizes the contribution of the individual to the system and the importance of the individual to the overall health of the system. Theory Y views individuals as a vital resource to not only contribute to the operation of the system, but it recognizes the potential future that those individuals hold and how that potential could positively impact the organization. Thus, individuals are to be cared for and nurtured so that the organization can benefit in the long run.

Theory X is losing popularity and is only used by the most incompetent of leaders as a primary system of motivation. After the description of Theory Y in the 1960s, more and more leaders have moved to this type of an approach to leadership. However, it has taken a long time to catch on in churches. Unfortunately, working the logic on the previous statements also means that churches display the most incompetent forms of leadership.

I could go into a comparison between Theory X and Theory Y churches, but I’ll save that for a later date. The purpose of this post is to explain some of how we identified the deficiencies in Jethro I and what that led to. As Theory Y became prevalent, and the role of the individual in society became the preeminent focus rather than the needs of the group/organization/society, the deficiencies in Jethro I started to stand out, particularly the underemphasis on the individual. This coincided with a tendency to try and organize ministry and involvement around “giftedness”, which when done incorrectly is just a guised Jethro I.

So, in response to the deficiencies of Jethro I, Jethro II was developed. Jethro II uses the same basic features and concepts of Jethro I (hence the similar names) with just a few significant changes.

Before we describe them, what do you think the significant changes are?

2 Responses to Theory X and Theory Y

  1. Allen Coker says:

    Would one of them be the creation of another “leader” – the involvement minister? The motivation is still “How do we get more people to share the burden of the work at church?” However, now we hire this guy (or couple) to help people discover their giftedness so that they can take more of the work.

    • Brad Palmore says:

      I think the Involvement Minister, a position I have held, is transitional between phases. The focus on the individual value is good, but as you hinted to, the primary goal is still to make the organization healthy. The creation of this position is a reaction to an awareness of the deficiencies of Jethro I without really moving to a valid solution.

      All that being said, I believe the creation of the position to be an asset and and indication that we are changing our focus in our churches.

Leave a reply