The origin of the species, well, not exactly. But the origin of ANIMAL FARM – a popular game for church assessment brought to you by PneuMatrix. Starting in the early 90s, my ministry was as a Corporate Chaplain, working directly with both for-profit and non-profit companies helping their leadership assess the health of corporate culture and offering spiritual direction for their employees.
Often people asked me, “ What is a Corporate Chaplain, and how can I be one?” For me, it started with a request from a friend who was responsible for picking the winners in the early capital venture era in Northern California’s Silicon Valley. Those early years were truly the wild west of new companies popping up daily. Many of these early tech entrepreneurs recognized that there is a deep connection between spirituality and innovation. We Presbyterians honor this with an ordination vow to serve with Imagination.
What evolved among many of us who were called overtly to bring a depth of spirituality to the workplace was a broadly interfaith cooperative. In my chaplaincy, I worked with Protestants and Roman Catholics, Jews and Sufis, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and what I would call the spiritually curious. Working together, we often directed particular employees toward a religion they had abandoned or about which they had a deep desire to explore. These days we’d say we were working with the “Nones and the Dones”.
As we openly explored the culture and values of these nascent and energetic tech companies, I developed an assessment or more often called a game – the language these folks best spoke – to be a tool to tease out the DNA of that company. Thus, the birth of Animal Farm.
Fast forward a dozen years, and my PneuMatrix Founding Partner, Jim Kitchens, and I tweaked the game a bit and have used it across the country in sessions, congregations, councils, and judicatories. It’s a terrific way to tease out deep truth in a non-threatening manner. Truth-telling about your congregation inevitably leads to deeper discussion. One new pastor told me the game had to save her about six months of relational exploration with her congregants. Another pastor admitted he grabbed the game one Sunday night when he realized he hadn’t mapped out the HS youth group plans for that night. He was blown away by how his youth saw the church differently from how their session saw themselves! Food for thought!
Keeping It Light-Hearted
It is a game by design. Stanford School of Design embraces the value that gamification switches which quadrant of the brain is most active. Released from linear thinking – serving with imagination – has magic.
The game is yours to play with – open source, at no cost – just let us know who you are. FYI, sacred cows can be good or bad. The squirrel is based on the great distraction for that loveable dog in the Pixar movie UP. And, no, we aren’t those Christians who believe the dinosaurs hang out with the elephants in the zoo.
Here’s the link to a downloadable version of the game:
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