Recently I was reading a magazine and a quote struck me from Alan Greenspan, (former Chairman of the Federal Reserve):
“If you get the right people in the room, you can solve Social Security in 15 minutes, and the first seven minutes are pleasantries.”
It was a brilliant thought, and many things are like this not only in the government but also in our everyday lives, including church. In my short life within the church (11 years), sad to say, I have witnessed a lot of needless discussions. The church has more pertinent issues that need changing, fine tuning, or just plain updating, such as –
The church’s laser focus on the core goals and its vision for the future can get unfocused as the church changes and grows. Like most things in life, church growth has a good and bad side. On the positive, it means people are coming to believe in what the organization is doing. Church growth typically includes more influences from people within the church. However, it typically means bigger buildings, more staff and resources, and inevitably more ideas on how things should be. Some past discussions I observed:
- The color of the walls in the nursery
- Carpet color in the main congregation
- The number of events the church is involved with this year if any
- The length of time for the worship service in comparison to the sermon
Convincing me that any of these are worthy of more than an eight-minute discussion with the right people would be a very hard sell. Do any of these further the more pertinent issues listed above (1 – 5)? If not, then they should require minimal discussion, and the church should concentrate its efforts on the real issues in the community. In other words, is the current debate (e.g. the color of the nursery) going to get us closer to our end goals (e.g. evangelizing) in the community?
3 quick points to resolving differences of opinion (this list is not exhaustive and please share others in your comments that you find helpful):
Strong Bonds – Sometimes people just don’t understand each other’s perspective and background well enough to form a trusting relationship. The team should hang out in a social setting (think Starbucks, bowling alley, camping trip, etc.) and have a relaxing conversation to become better acquainted with one another (ref. Larry Osbourne). It doesn’t happen overnight with one outing, but the results can be reaped for many years when a team comes together and its members understand one another. A colleague reminded me that an individual’s opinions and perceptions are filtered using our own past experiences, personality, and background. I think a quote from Margret Landon best summarizes the point:
“Most people do not see the world as it is. They see it as they are.”
Problem Solving Meetings – If an organization wants to run “problem-solving meetings” they may be interested in reviewing the 7 tips from Seth Godin. Point number one really hit home with me as I thought of past meetings where I wondered why certain individuals were invited. Inviting people to rub political elbows or socialize them to an idea can slow the process and even have a negative effect on results, as Seth points out.
Relationships at the Expense of Decisions – I like to believe that the majority of churches and their people have good intentions and don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. However, reality tells us that rarely does one get everything they want. But when decisions are done gracefully it can help to reduce animosity and/or resentment. One way to do this is as a preemptive discussion with the person whose idea(s) was not chosen about the decision. Remember, when the team has strong bonds, a trusting relationship was formed and the individual knows that as a team it was the best decision although it was not their way.
What are your thoughts on why churches often dwell on small, trivial things that take away valuable resources like time and money to encroach into the more pertinent issues that define the organization? Why are there not real changes in the church?