Our congregations often have habits, traditions, or attitudes that are in tension (or even in conflict) with their mission and vision. These are grounded in “accidental values” that may be invisible to the members but glaringly obvious to the newcomer.
An accidental value is something that we have a strong emotional attachment to and probably inherited from our ancestors (either from biology or tradition) but does not really serve our core purpose and aspiration of who we want to be in the world.
Part of our own faith formation–especially as leaders– is bringing awareness to our own emotional attachments and whether or not these attachments serve who we aspire to be. This is a part of becoming self-differentiated.
Church consultant and author Peter Steinke offers a metaphor for this phenomenon:
Self-Differentiation is the capacity to “like the way your mother fried potatoes but not to be overwhelmed by anxiety if someone else’s mother fried them differently. This means you don’t try to convert others to your mother’s fried potatoes, nor do you give in to another’s need for fried potatoes of a certain kind. And you do not disconnect from another until they fry their potatoes your mother’s way.”
Here are some examples of “Fried Potatoes,” (i.e. “accidental” congregational habits or traditions that might be interfering with what the congregation hopes to become):
- I had a bad experience in a Christian church so I don’t want any Christian language used in my congregation.
- The Beatles and Bob Dylan are great for worship but there hasn’t been any new music since 1980 that would be.
- The donated furniture in our social hall looks awful, but we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the members who dropped it off in the middle of the week.
- The only way to be a committed member is to serve on a committee and attend meetings faithfully.
- You need a car (preferably a hybrid) to participate in the life of our congregation.
What are some other examples of fried potatoes?
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant