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10 January 2009

Can You Smell a "Cheater?"

A recent article put out by National Geographic the other day documents some amazing research about ants.

In ant colonies there can be only one offspring producing ant - the Queen Ant in that colony. This doesn't mean other female ants can't produce. In fact they can produce offspring without the help of a male (called: parthenogenesis). When a female ant in the colony other than the queen attempts to reproduce, it puts off a chemical called a "pheromone" that is detected by the other ants. In order to maintain the hierarchy in the colony this female is attacked and restrained (killed?) by the other ants.

Researchers believe that pheromones may also be responsible for the behavior of other insects like bees and wasps.

Bringing it Full Circle
The female ants that attempt to reproduce in the article are referred to as "cheaters." And for some reason the concept of the colony with the hierarchy and the strict rules made me think of our work environments.

I'm assuming most companies have a hierarchy and fairly specific expectations that if not followed results in the employee being fired. Some companies more rigid than others. And the church is no exception.

The church has the typical "work" expectations like attendance, productivity and the like. But it also has a hierarchy like the ant colony. Not hierarchy like org chart (though we have that too) - more like a hierarchy of values that are held as important.

The ants follow the "No reproducing" rule almost as if it were their religious belief. And it is the same for the church. We work for a higher purpose - both the truths found in the Bible and the specific mission, vision and values that your church has.

For us at Granger, we have the Bible and we have, "Helping people take their next steps toward Christ, together..."

So is it possible to have "cheaters" on staff at your church - people who really aren't concerned about the two big things the church stands for?

My answer is "Of course!" Unfortunately you won't always have thoroughbreds on your team all pulling in the same direction.

The difficult task for the "colony" is to identify these employees, work with them to adjust their trajectory and if this isn't possible - to help them find another "colony" where they align better.