Every organization has its sacred cows--programs or procedures described as "we've always done it this way." Sacred cows are considered sacred because leaders have created an emotional connection with them. In some ways, part of their very identity is wrapped up in the program or initiative. This is why questioning these programs can lead to emotional outbursts or combative situations.
Sacred cows typically didn’t
start that way. Most began as a God-given vision for change and growth in a
ministry. That vision gained momentum, grew in its structure and reach until it
became a church program. The program became part of the church’s culture, with
other visions and programs having work around it. At some point along the way,
the program became more important than the God behind it (though the sacred cow
worshipers would never admit to this).
Sacred cows often go unnoticed until
someone bumps into them and asks them to move or change.
Leading up requires the tipping of sacred cows. Killing sacred cows—questioning or ending the program immediately—shows a lack of systems thinking and teamwork. If a leader has their identity wrapped up in the cow, you may think you’re doing them a favor by killing it. But this is akin to haphazardly cutting someone open to try to remove a cancer. Instead of killing the cows, try tipping them. Expose them for what they really are—programs, and nothing more. Leading up to those who have invested in the sacred cow requires building relational equity in order to make a significant withdrawal when you question the cow. Instead of having a “me versus them” approach, humbly walk alongside the cow worshipers and evaluate the cow together. Why have we done it this way? What does our church/organization need in order to grow and thrive? What could we do differently together?