A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components, detailed methods, procedures, and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty or solve a problem. These components and methods continually influence one another directly or indirectly. Houses and public building have systems such as: An electrical system, plumbing system, HVAC system, and computer network system. Systems generally underlie every phenomenon and are all part of a larger system. A house may be located in a neighborhood which is part of a city nestled in a metro area. (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/system.html)
A system can also refer to a set of rules that governs structure and/or behavior in society and in organizations. For example, the US government has a legislative system, judicial system, and executive system.
The human body also has multiple systems. These systems work together enabling a human being to function. The circulatory system is the bodies transport system. The heart pumps blood through the arteries and veins to nourish power everything. The digestive system breaks down food into protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats turning it into energy enabling tissue growth and repair. The immune system is our body's defense system against infections and diseases. Organs, tissues, cells, and cell products work together to respond to dangerous organisms (like viruses or bacteria) and substances that may enter the body from the environment.
Churches also have systems. These systems may be formalized or operate informally. Every church has and needs systems in order to function correctly. But lurking in the background shadow systems are also at work. The official “unofficial” Wikipedia page states: “A shadow system is a term used in information services for any application relied upon for business processes that is not under the jurisdiction of a centralized information systems department. That is, the information systems department did not create it, was not aware of it, and does not support it.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_system)
Shadow systems are not limited to banking and business; they thrive in every organization, and they thrive in your church whether you like it or not. They are often led by influential volunteers or key people who may, or may not, have any official title or responsibilities. They may also be led by disgruntled staff members. People who lead shadow systems are able to operate with efficiency because they don’t play by the rules, have no accountability, and are able to deny responsibility when confronted.
Shadow systems are activated before the formal meeting, after the formal meeting, and influence what happens during the formal meeting. Shadow systems are never born in the board room, they are created in the staff break room, during small groups gatherings, and in the lobby over a cup of coffee. Shadow systems are refined by the rumor mill and distributed via social media and word of mouth. They can be volatile, destroy credibility, and damage unity. They can also create an efficient route around bureaucracy, create momentum, and validate rising leaders. Shadow systems will always exist in the church because people always go to who they know for what they want regardless of the “official” system in place.
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