People Get Ready, Part 2

Abridged Excerpt from “The Future of Justice Ministries” by Rev. David Pyle
The Keynote for the UU Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network Annual Meeting 2016

I always default to hope. It is the most constant aspect of my personality. And yet, hope has seemed more difficult these last few days. I could not stand here before you to share about the future of Justice Ministries in our congregations and our movement without acknowledging that hope is harder right now, for myself and I think for many of us. And yet, hope is at the center of what I think religion brings to humanity. Hope is at the center of my understanding of this religious movement of Unitarian Universalism.

And so, it is hope that I am committed to bringing to all of us in this moment when for many of us hope is hard. Hope is most powerful when it is difficult. Hope is most transformative when it is challenged. When hope is easy to hold, we take it for granted. I clearly saw that hope can be taken for granted this week, in that the word “hope” did not appear even once in the first draft of this address, written several weeks ago. I did not use the word, because it seemed to me to be assumed. That early draft took a tone of “of course we are living in hopeful times… we have made progress in so many areas, and conversations that have long been avoided are now being engaged.”

One of the spiritual learnings I have had from this moment in our culture is that we should never assume hope. Hope must be created in every moment. And, as a people of liberal faith, it falls to us to create the hope in the future within this world, more than hope for a future once this mortal coil falls away. We of liberal faith, we are called to be the bringers of hope for this world, in these times, for us all.

And, there is reason to hope. Over my years of serving as a chaplain, as a minister, and as a consultant to congregations, I have come to believe that the opposite of hope is not despair. No, the opposite of hope is apathy. It is the belief that nothing can change. The belief that nothing matters. The belief that nothing can be done. When hope seems absent, the most common reaction is for people to throw up their hands and withdraw. Despair is almost better than apathy, because those in despair still care, and care deeply about the outcome. They are still invested. They still believe in the dreamed of future that hope points us to, even if they despair of finding a path to that future at that moment. Despair you can work with… but apathy?

Apathy is no longer caring. It says that hope is not possible, for there is nothing to hope for. No purpose to hope. Hope is a delusion. Hope cannot make any difference. Apathy is one of the most difficult emotions to work with, because there is nothing to draw someone towards.

And this is why I am hopeful in this moment… because I am beginning to see apathy ending all around us. Not among those of us who already gather in the sanctuaries and basements of Unitarian Universalist churches… if you are willing to get up on a Sunday morning, drive into a church (even if we call it something else), and listen to a preacher talk about who knows what, you have probably already pushed your way out of apathy. You have come because you care. Because we care, we are often the ones feeling despair, when we see no clear paths of how we get to the future to which we have committed ourselves and our movement… the future of beloved community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all. Our challenge is to keep caring, no matter what. From that hope is born.

No, what I see happening around us right now is apathy ending. I see millions of people who have felt as if nothing they did would make any difference, I see them beginning to care. On both sides of the political aisle, I am seeing people awake from apathy to caring. And if they care, then we can be in conversation about what we care about, and where the intersections may be. No such conversation is possible with those who do not care.

In saying that, I do not want to make light of the human cost of that awakening, nor do I want to seem to say that the fear and hatred that has come out of the shadows of our society is somehow a good thing. I will tell you, right now, I’m scared. I am scared for all the people I love who hold marginalized identities. I know that many of my friends and loved ones are scared. I am scared for myself, and for all of the members of our military whom I serve as a chaplain, as well as all the Unitarian Universalists and others out there who have been and will continue to be the target of the racism, hatred, and otherization that has been intentionally released and empowered in our society. People I know and love are going to be hurt. Have already been hurt. Some may even die. Aspects of Justice and of building the beloved community are being seriously damaged. I am scared.

And… I learned long ago that bravery is being scared… and doing your job anyway. Feeling the fear and stepping up to what the world needs from you anyway. If you are not afraid, you cannot be brave.

Hope and bravery… the pastor in me hopes that if you leave here with nothing else today, you leave here centered on these two things. Hope in the inspiration of the Beloved Community that we will build. And bravery for the challenges that lay ahead, no matter how rightfully afraid we are in this moment. And, one more thing… I hope you leave here with an awareness for who we are, and what purpose we, the Movement of Unitarian Universalism, what purpose we are called to play in such times as these.

I will echo my colleague the Rev. Mark Stringer, who said in his Sunday Morning Worship Service sermon at a General Assembly in Providence Rode Island a few years ago that we “Unitarian Universalists are the people who show up”. That when there is a call to something… an action, a protest, a city council meeting, a healing session, a dialogue… no matter what it is, when the spirit of justice is moving somewhere, for some purpose, we Unitarian Universalists show up. We may not even fully know why we are showing up, but we do anyway. We may not have a theology and methodology to justify why we are there. We are just there. Our presence matters more than the why.

I remember a conversation I once had with a Social Worker in Ventura, California, who was a conservative Catholic. As we were talking about how to help one particular family who were experiencing homelessness find their way back into housing, I complimented her on her ability to work with me and our church’s homelessness advocacy program, even though she knew our theologies were so very different.

She looked at me very seriously, and she said, “Well, I learned years ago that you can’t work on Justice in Ventura if you can’t work with the Unitarians. Because you all are everywhere.” We are the people who show up, not just when there is a specific call to action, but also when it is just the every-day work of Justice. Because, one of the commonalities I have found among Unitarian Universalists is that we care. And because we care, we are there.

The second foundation that I think we have brought, and must bring again to the work of building the belovedcooltext215364241585579 community, is that we are the infrastructure of the revolution. Michael Moore said that he thanked God for the Unitarian Universalists, because in between all the times that the revolution was out on the streets, it was recovering and being nurtured in the basements of Unitarian Universalist churches. It has happened so many times I have lost count… I would say to some activist that I am a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and they would respond with, “Oh, I’ve been to a UU Church! I was there for a training in non-violent communication and action” or “I was at your church for a panel discussion on low-income housing” or “Hey, you all gave us money to print all those flyers last year” or “I came to a candle-light vigil there when an unarmed black man was killed by the police”.

All revolutions need a sanctuary. They need a place to rest, recover, and organize. They need a place to train. They need a place to build the relationships that hold people fast in the midst of trial and adversity. Our congregations are a part of this sanctuary. We are not the only place, there are indeed other religious traditions that also play this role. But I will make this claim. Of all the religious traditions who serve as sanctuary and institutional support for the work of creating the beloved community, we Unitarian Universalists have a greater ability to draw people into the revolution from the dominant culture than many of our allies do. That is both a blessing and a challenge. It is a blessing in the ways that we can grow and spread the movement. It is a challenge in the ways in which we sometimes express the dominant culture within our efforts for transformation and change. Our work in being that sanctuary is to be of service to the revolution, and to resist the impulse to lead it. We are at our best when we are in partnership and service to the revolution of love and justice.

The third foundation that I think we bring is what I began with. We bring hope. We bring the ability to care about people, the future, and the world. We bring a fierce determination that is rooted in the idea that it is up to us to build the world that we want to live in. A fierce determination that it is our hands that can and will change the world, and a faith that the world can be changed. Our faith is rooted in the here and now… it is rooted in the possibilities within this world. Within humanity. Within our lives and our communities. Unitarian Universalists bring an optimism of immediacy to the revolution of beloved community.

During the work of Ending Homelessness in California, I was sitting with an activist who had fought tirelessly to win a vote in the Ventura City Council. After the vote was taken and we had lost, she talked about her own despair. She then said that the Unitarian Universalists were her inspiration… because we never give up. The moment has stayed with me, for two reasons. First, she was right… my congregation members were standing in the back corner of the room, already planning what our next steps were in light of losing the vote. But second, it struck me that because we would never give up our belief in building a just, sustainable, and peaceful world, neither would she.

We are the people who show up. We are the sanctuary of the revolution. And we are the people who do not give up. And that is who the world needs us to be.

 

Rev. David Pyle
Rev. David Pyle

The Rev. David Pyle is a member of the UUA’s Central East Regional Staff, and serves the congregations of the Delmarva Penninsula, Greater Baltimore, and Central Pennsylvania as their UUA Staff Primary Contact.  He also serves as a U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain for the 439th Multifuncitonal Medical Battalion at Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.


The End of Strategic Planning

Smaller congregations in many denominations are struggling to survive. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily “doing church” badly. But it does mean they need to do dead endchurch differently. Intuiting this need, church leaders often begin gearing up for a strategic planning process.

Strategic plans have been viewed as the epitome of responsible church governance since the 1970s, however… That view is shifting. Experts now speak of the “death” of strategic planning so frequently we thought it fitting to summarize their views in the following obituary.  

Mr. Strategic Plan quietly passed away in the first decade of the 21st century. He was born many years ago in a military camp, later adopted by businesses, and then spent his last years among non-profits and churches. He flourished in a time marked by its slower pace and greater institutional resources. He believed that tomorrow would turn out to be much like today and that with enough data and a clear, sure sense of self he could chart the best path forward into the distant future. Upon exposure to social and cultural shifts, Mr. Strategic Plan took ill and went into isolation. He was neglected in his last years and his death is only now being noticed in some quarters.

Mr. Strategic Plan is survived by many agile, shorter-term, best-guess strategic actions launched from a common ground, driven by individual or small group passions and coordinated just enough to reveal the congregation’s evolving understanding of its role in the world.

In this moment, the trend is away from massive, linear, comprehensive plans that define a specific future and the steps to get there, toward agile, bold actions plus reflection that move us now into our destinies. Direct those actions toward creating Beloved Community and practice a reflection that is spiritually centered, and you have the new way of framing congregational strategic planning.

This reframing eliminates the long search for a single set of all-inclusive goals perfectly balanced to achieve unanimous approval by the congregation. Instead, leadership creates a framework that supports groups of congregants passionately engaged in the community to give and receive gifts of service, hope, and love. For church leaders, this reframe is both a shift in thinking and a shift in behavior.

The Big Shifts in Strategic Planning

The biggest mind-shift may be giving up the idea that we can continue to do what we already do­, except more and better. Common expressions of this mindset include, “We just need” [more members, bigger pledges, the right minister, a revised governance structure or bylaws, or a larger draw on the endowment]. Good leaders are already squeezing benefits from doing the familiar. But if we meet only these kinds of needs the future will arrive, welcome or not, and tell us to close our doors for good.  Strategic thinking is a shift in stance from knowing to not knowing and from the familiar to the unknown and maybe even the risky.

With this reframe, the biggest shift in leadership behavior may be away from a top-down approach with the board gathering data and then determining goals. Instead the board equips its members to become instruments of strategic thinking and exploration as they minister out in the community. Shifts are not just top-down to bottom-up but also inward focused to outward engaged.  The most critical strategic information about a congregation’s future lies in active engagement outside of its walls.

This reframe of strategic planning also requires shifting from:

  • Slow and deliberative to nimble and experimental
  • Comprehensive and unanimous to targeted and personal
  • Knowing the “right” path to learning from success and failure

Doug Zelinski
Doug Zelinski

-Doug Zelinski, Leadership Development Director, New England Region

 

Resources:

These are a lot of shifts and the question of “How?” surfaces almost immediately. New England Regional staff will share what we are learning about this reframing and answering the question “How?” at our upcoming event “The Future of Small to Mid-Sized Congregations” happening April 18 in Reading, MA and again on May 2 in Springfield, MA . You can read more and register for either of these events on the New England Region website.  

 

 

 

…And That’s Where the Magic Happens

Photo Copyright Brad Bolton
Photo Copyright Brad Bolton

It usually starts with one person with the beginning of an audacious idea.  It has enough form so that others can visualize the possibilities.  It also has enough open possibilities that others can see where they can bring their creativity and energy to help co-create it.  And woven fine within the interactions and planning that lead to the actual “product” is a feeling of there being some mysterious additional energy that enables the group to create something that feels almost magical.

It happened at my home congregation.  One woman, after reading the first couple of Harry Potter books, imagined creating a “vacation church school” based on the books.  Adult teachers would take on Hogwarts alter egos and create a version of Hogwarts where they emphasized liberal religious values.  Each teacher used their creativity and skills to create a unique experience in their classes. “Defense against the Dark Arts” helped the students respond to bullying.  The “Potions” class encouraged the love of science through chemistry.  Children who aged out of the program could become prefects or even professors.  Over ten years after its inception, the program is still filled to capacity.

Camp BeagleSomething similar happened at the congregation in Annapolis, Maryland. A group of UU parents wanted to offer the children of their congregation and the community their own version of a Vacation School, with liberal religious values. Because their church sits on 7 acres of woodland, they developed a nature camp. Their mission was to encourage questioning, active exploration, a respect for interconnectedness of all the earth, a sense of adventure, and—most importantly— a sense of awe!

They named it Camp Beagle, after the H.M.S. Beagle, the ship that took Charles Darwin on the voyage that changed the course of how we view our place in the world.

The adults planning the activities used their creative energy to serve the camp’s mission of exploration and awe. To explore the idea of evolution, children tried out different size binder clips to pick up seed and beans of various shapes and sizes.  To see the effect of meteors hitting the earth, they dropped various rocks into a pan of flour.  Teams of campers competed to come up with ways to recycle and reuse items in a pile of trash.  The camp has become so popular that they fill up soon after they open registration.

I think of these stories as examples of Creative Interchange, as described by UU process theologian Henry Nelson Wieman.  He described it as a sacred inspiration that encourages us to deepen and widen our connections with the rest of creation in service of goodness and love. When we come together with openness to including diverse gifts, the result can be transformative – for the participant and those around them — and even the world!

Our congregations are natural places to nurture opportunities for people to bring their gifts.  The savvy leader can spot where energy is flowing and help turn that into synergy with Creative Interchange.

-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Congregational Life Staff, Central East Region

 

5 Shades of Ministry

Allegheny UU Church in Pittsburgh, PA has a commitment to shared ministry.
Allegheny UU Church in Pittsburgh, PA has a commitment to shared ministry.

I’ve spent most of my summer working with different programs and events that help to grow lay leaders in our faith.  I have had the blessing of encountering dozens of earnest, committed and evangelical lay leaders wanting to spread the good news of our liberal faith.  Ministry shows up in many forms, and each has high value and an important role in the life of our faith communities.  Often ordained ministry is held up as “real ministry,” relegating other forms of ministry to lesser status.  I think all forms of ministry are important and complementary.

Ministry comes in many shades that, when layered, become a  rich hue. I can think of five — perhaps you might come up with more.

  • Pastoral Ministry is compassion.
    It is offering comfort and care to each other when we are in need.
  • Teaching Ministry is consciousness.
    It is encouraging one another to form our beliefs, live our values and engage our world.
  • Prophetic Ministry is agency.
    It is how we use our religious convictions to transform the world.
  • Ordained Ministry is devotion.
    It is a life devoted to serving the transcendent religious ideal.
  • Shared Ministry is covenantal.
    It is the time and intention that lay people carve out of their busy lives, also in their commitment to partner in serving the transcendent religious ideal. It is the time and attention that the clergy give to the spiritual formation of those leaders. Shared ministry is the greatest of these because it creates space for all gifts of ministry.

-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Leadership Development Consultant

 

 

 

The Gift of Being Called

It was mid-afternoon and my sixth grade classmates and I were in the middle of a lesson.  Suddenly, the deep voice of the principal boomed over the loudspeaker.  “Mr. Doyle, I need your help.  Mrs. Jones will be out the rest of the day and I need someone to be in the office to answer phones and greet visitors.” He went on, “I need someone confident and responsible.  Someone like …” and then he said my name!

I didn’t really see myself as a leader.  I didn’t think the principal even knew who I was.  What did he see in me that I didn’t see in myself?  I was just a kid, after all.phone

Of course, my teacher excused me from class and I walked down the glazed brick hallway to the office.  I timidly opened the door to find the principal sitting at the secretary’s desk. “Come in! Come in!  Thank you for helping us out!” he said warmly.  He proceeded to show me how the phones worked and how to use a pad with carbon paper to take messages.  Once he was sure I knew what to do he retreated back into his office and I was left alone with the seemingly immense responsibility of the office.

There have been other times in my life when someone reached into me and revealed something that I hadn’t seen in myself.  They remind me that our blind spots don’t just keep us from recognizing our faults but can also be keeping us from seeing our gifts.  The best leaders look for gifts in others, and then help them to develop those gifts.  They encourage others into leadership by providing confidence-building experiences and meaningful service.

Other than a couple of phone calls, that afternoon in the office was itself uneventful.  But the experience of having someone with so much power and authority not only to see potential in me, but spend unhurried time to help me realize that potential, was a life-changing gift.

-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant

The Adaptive Generation

overloadIn my last blog post I wrote about the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.  I received a few requests to write about the generational cohort labeled Gen X (rough birth years 1960-1985), sandwiched between the two and much smaller than either.  Most of the ministerial settlements last year were Gen Xers.  I wonder if this may be a sign of a sea change in the UU movement.

Bad Reputation?

First a little background on the how the media has maligned Gen Xers for the past couple of decades:

In a recent Salon article,  writes:

 

Around the time Richard Linklater’s film “Slacker” came out in 1991, journalists and critics put a finger on what they thought was different about the young generation of emerging adults – they were reluctant to grow up, disdainful of earnest action. The stereotype stuck – and it stuck hard. Business school management books define our generation as adaptable but reluctant to make decisions; and boomer managers call on Xers to finally take on leadership roles. Wake up and step up, X! the culture seems to be saying.

 

The article goes on to quote Neil Howe, the leading national expert on generational theory:

It’s about time, [Howe] says, for Xers to acknowledge limits and step up to the plate. “These Xers spending their lives with this sardonic view, never taking anything that’s happening in public at face value, but always to find the failing, that expresses a bigger problem with X — they are always outsiders,” he says. “These boomer CEOs say that they are maturing to the extent that they should be heading into leadership roles, but they simply don’t want to accept responsibility to the bigger community.“

A Different Lived Reality?

UU Gen X blogger Kimberley Debus responds to Howe:

What Howe misses here is that we WANT to step up. We WANT responsibility. We CARE DEEPLY about the bigger community. But we keep finding there’s no room from the Boomers above and we’re being pushed from the Millennials below. We are the Prince Charles of generations.

The Gift of Adaptation

I see gifts that Gen X brings to our congregations. They a generational cohort that has learned to live their lives faced by adaptive challenge after adaptive challenge.  They are quick to see the broken parts of our governance and the “stuck” parts of our culture.

Another key difference of the Gen Xers is that instead of pooh-poohing all things Christian, they are learning strategy and skills from the missional evangelical churches. The Red Pill Brethren are an example of what missional UU church might look like.

When Gen Xers find they can’t break into leadership, they often creatively “hack” the institutional homeostasis when they don’t have the power to change the system. Congregations that actively recruit Gen Xers into leadership increase their own adaptability to the changing context.  I invite you to look at the composition of your board of trustees.  What percentage is under the age of 50?

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant

Let’s Not Say “Show Me the Money”

There can be a significant cultural divide between baby boomers and millennials in our congregations, which is obvious to the millennials, but often invisible to the boomers.   I was reminded of this after seeing various reactions on Facebook to a recent article on CNN’s Belief blog, Why millennials are leaving the church, and the video Church Shop created by a group of spirited Presbyterian young adults.

There are two major themes in the message that millennials are trying to deliver.

The first is that the message coming from the church should not be opposed to science nor to lived experience. Millennials understand that they can be spiritual and ethical and believe in evolution and support gay marriage.  We Unitarian Universalists are way ahead of the curve on this and are pretty good at saying so on our websites.  Millennials should be flocking to our churches, right?  They often do check us out if they are willing to give church a second chance.

The second theme in the millennials’ message is the one I want every congregational leader to hear with an open heart:

Millennials are looking toward faith communities as a way of helping them deepen their own faith and to make the world a better place.  They also are wise to the fact that they will likely never be as affluent as those born before 1958, but instead of reacting with bitterness or cynicism, Millennials  are responding with a creative energy that is outwardly mission-focused and pragmatic.

HStressed Over Moneyere is where our UU congregations often fall short.  Instead of seeing the gift that this generation can bring to our faith communities, financially comfortable members often characterize Millennials as a drag on the church because their financial contributions aren’t at a comparable level.  Older members might see Millennials’ reluctance to join committees as disinterest, where in fact these young adults aren’t interested in joining committees unless their time will result in some significant mission-focused action.  The physical building is not as important as what happens inside, and what happens inside is not as important as how that affects the world outside.  The core values between the generations are similar, but the emphasis has changed.

Generational theory shows parallels between the G.I. Generation and the Millennials.  Both are civic-minded institution-builders.  The G.I. Generation had the resources to focus on the financial, and many church endowments are the beneficiaries of their providence.  This new generation will not have the same financial opportunities as their earlier counterparts, but they are creatively meeting today’s challenges with the resources that they do have.  I hope our congregations see their potential and help to nurture and support them as they respond to the future with the limited resources that have been left to them.

(note: this video contains mild profanity)

The Path Taken

conflict resolution“Conflict”, philosopher John Dewey wrote, “is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving.”

All too many leaders in our congregations, however, see conflict or resistance as inherently evil.  In this way of thinking, the goal is to deny the conflict or suppress it in an effort to maintain the illusion of harmony.  Savvy leaders know that conflict in a healthy congregation is to be welcomed and cultivated; that out of conflict comes creativity and new ideas and energy.  The key is how the leader meets and responds to the resistance that is causing the conflict.

Belgian Luc Galoppin, http://www.slideshare.net/lucgaloppin, a wonderfully inventive organizational change manager, says that we have a choice when our goals or ideas are met with resistance.  We can respond with revenge or we can respond with respect.  Taking the revenge path means pushing harder to get your way when there is resistance.  The result of this tactic is usually greater resistance.  So, in order to meet this increased resistance, one has to push even harder.  Eventually, you reach a state of indifference on the part of the resister.  “Fine, have it your way”, they may say.  “I don’t care anymore.”  “Whatever.”   In this scenario, the leader has created what Galoppin calls an energy drain.  Game over.  Resistance has been defeated.  Congregational life goes on, albeit less inspired, less motivated, and less energized.

The other path that leaders can take when faced with resistance is one of respect.  It begins with remembering that everyone we meet is facing a great battle and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and kindness.  It means listening for why they care about the issue; taking the time to understand the underlying meaning, intentions, hopes and dreams of the other.  It means not taking it personally, even if the reaction of the other was clearly intended to hurt you.  In taking the path of respect, the leader strives for open communication and collaboration in negotiating a solution that will resolve the conflict and move the congregation forward.  The leader commits to staying “at the table” until this work is done.  This process, says Galoppin, is the source of our energy and keeps us in the ballgame.

Following the path of revenge stems from the need to be right.  Following the path of respect stems from the need to be in relationship.

As a Unitarian Universalist, which path makes more sense to you?

Mark Bernstein, Consultant, Central East Regional Group

Putting the “Shared” in Shared Ministry

batonOne of the most important factors in a vibrant congregation is a high level of covenantal trust between the minister and the lay leaders.  When I say covenantal, I intentionally mean the promises made between the leaders and members and in service to that which is greater than the congregation itself, articulated in the mission.

In a recent Facebook post, Peacebang wrote:

A personal opinion: The most important service parish ministers can provide in this era is to constantly encourage, equip, facilitate, connect members of the congregation in living out their own ministries and connecting to a vibrant, shared mission. (emphasis mine) Ministers should be given the authority to assure that the church staff is effectively serving the mission of the church, and that includes hiring and firing power. It takes too much lay energy to supervise staff, and it sets up triangulated relationships that can steal years of healthy functioning from congregations (and frequently does — ! If I had a dime for every story I’ve heard, I could pay my first month’s mortgage with that pile of dimes). Healthy, living congregations have made the shift from seeing clergy as service providers to each individual and family (especially the big givers, amirite?) to someone who serves the mission of the congregation. Different. Less “people-pleasery.” The minister’s chief public function for the congregation is to lead regular worship that beautifully and powerfully expresses the congregation’s relationship to God/Ultimate, as put forth in beautiful, effective liturgy. In this model, the congregation has less interest in talking about the minister and much more interest in talking about their ministry. #paradigmshift

She posts a more detailed reflection which includes:

Are leaders in your community allowed to actually lead? Or do they have permission only to establish careful, traditional agendas and to ask for permission for every tiny step they take toward institutional health and mission-fulfillment? For every step forward, is there an interminable process of obtaining permission from every critic and worrier? Why? Who holds your congregation hostage?

To be fair, (and as Peacebang indicates with her hashtag) this requires a paradigm shift. Some congregations and ministers are already living into this trust-based, mission-based, permission-giving way of doing church.

One of the best books that I have read about empowering others is a book called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  I would love to see every minister, religious educator and lay leader read it!

 

Measure in Dog Years

PugChurch leaders that I work with are often frustrated with the slow, almost glacial speed of change in congregational life.  What might take a month or two in the workplace takes a year in the church.

Our American corporate culture creates high expectations around “working harder and smarter” and expecting quick turnarounds on “deliverables” whether it be a widget, a report or even a response to an email.  I hope that our congregational cultures operate out of a different ethic and deeper values.

I find it helpful to remember that–at most–our lay leaders can only devote one day out of a seven-day week of their time and energy on their volunteer duties. Another way of thinking of this is measuring the progress of projects in church using the same conversion factor when we measure the lifespan of dogs, i.e. one dog year equals seven human years.

So the next time you feel frustrated at the slow pace of church, remember Fido and change your expectations by a factor of 7.