Starting this Sunday, November 30th, yorocko.com will host a unique blogging experiment called “Stump.” For 25 consecutive days posts will appear here exploring the symbols of the Jesse Tree. These posts will be written by members and friends of Claremont Presbyterian Church, and they will offer personal reflections on the apple, the ark, the star, and everything else on a Jesse Tree.
Read these posts. Share them. Live them.
Stump: coming this Sunday.
Among the countless tweets and Facebook status updates reacting to last night’s announcement that a grand jury would not indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, I found one particularly frustrating, and not for its viewpoint.
One friend posted, “Is there anyone or any evidence that disputes the testimony that the officer was assaulted as a part of this tragedy?” A comment thread now 36 replies long ensued, but my friend is nowhere to be seen. It gets ugly and out of control, and the person responsible for it disappears. This is a failure of responsibility.
Social media allows everyone to have their say, but that’s not the real value of Facebook and Twitter. These tools allow all of us to facilitate constructive conversations with people we know and people we don’t, and when something like Ferguson happens that opportunity is huge. But you do more harm than good when you throw a thought onto your wall and then hide while people fight over it. Have your say, sure. But then stay engaged. Do the hard work of leading your people in a constructive conversation. Don’t bail.
If you need guidance, Landon Whitsitt does this better than anyone I know.
Stuff I learned on Sunday
She was out of the front pew on the first note of the Introit and mid-aisle by the third, arms outstretched, head upheld–the unmistakable pose of a 6 year-old about to dance. Two unbidden syllables escaped my lips in the moment: “Oh man.”
The dancing of Daughter and her playmate(s) during worship these last several weeks has been a delightful development; people have expressed pride in being part of a church where little girls dance freely in worship. People actually said that to a consultant. It’s great.
But it feels like now might be a good time to give the pirouetting and jumping some, shall we say, boundaries. By the end of the Introit our two adorable dancers had done splits, bounded down the center aisle, and run the chancel steps. If members of the choir were given to feeling upstaged, they had good reason to be, though nobody said so.
Before it becomes a point of contention, I think I’ll suggest limiting the dancing to hymns–not choral pieces–and the space between the front pew and the lectern. This makes me a bit of a Grinch, I know. But I think you follow your gut on these things (there’s no children-dancing-in-worship policy), and my gut yesterday morning clearly said, “Oh man.”
The man’s hair is greasy, and his eyes dart around the room as he relates to me the tale of his car accident. “It’s a miracle I’m alive,” he says.
I can smell him, and I wonder when he last showered. His shirt is on backwards, and the front of his slacks is unclasped (the back falls far enough to make plain he’s not wearing underwear).
“It was a quadruple spin that turned into a flip, and I walked away without a scratch, because of Jesus Christ. Because of JESUS CHRIST!” He punches his fist into an opposing palm for emphasis.
He is clearly not well.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t right.
You need trust–like personal trust in competent people to do good work and not foul things up.
You also need structures like rules and procedures to short-circuit the human tendency toward stupidity and short-sightedness.
Trust without structures causes problems. Structures without trust does too.
Tapestry is trying to preserve the trust the leaders have in one another as the basis for our work together, even as we kick around things we need to start doing to ensure quality. Some of us default to trusting one another and don’t need an outline of your retreat talk beforehand. Others default to creating structures and want all talks shared 30 days out. Here we are.
The PC(USA) has been roiled by the discovery that some denominational personnel used church grant money to start their own independent nonprofit. The personnel in question were aiming for “flexibility,” and it’s clear that they trusted each other and had the trust of others in the denomination. But they sidestepped important structures, and now they’re on administrative leave and the value of a terrific movement is now in question. Here we are.
Don’t tell me we need a “balance” of trust and structures. That’s too easy. Isn’t it more the case that we need to discern when one is more urgently needed than the other, and whether or not the urgent need for trust permits looser structures or the urgent need for structure puts trust in the backseat?
Can you have both all the time?
My preferred note taking app doesn’t work with the updated version of my phone’s operating system, so I went looking for a replacement. The first one I tried gave me default “Work” and “Home” to do lists, and the moment I looked at them I realized something about my life. Then I deleted the app.
“Work” and “Home” don’t make sense as separate vocational categories for me anymore. The projects I’m working on for my pastoral job do not feel more (or less) important to me than the projects I’m focusing on at home, the events at my daughter’s school or the meals I’m learning to cook at the end of each day.
This is a choice that privileged people get to make. I watched my dad endure a blue collar job for over 30 years, and he lived–absolutely lived–for his leisure time away from it. “Home” and “Work,” for him, were warring parties. That’s the norm for the majority of people.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m grateful for my work and my family.
My church is doing the New Beginnings Assessment, and so we have been learning about organizational life cycles. One version displays the life cycle as a hill. Churches start at the bottom with lots of energy, and they climb by building significant networks of relationships, which give birth to programs, which, of course, require administration. On the decline side of that hill, things fall away in the exact same order; energy goes first, then the relationships, then the programs. In the end, administrative structures are all that’s left.
I’ve been part of new churches and established ones, and this setup seems right.
My far-sighted colleague observed to me that, at our church, we spend most of our efforts on relationships and almost none on energy. We’ve said for a very long time that administration needs to support programs and that programs are only valuable insofar as they incubate meaningful relationships. And we’ve stopped there.
What about energy, then? Where does energy come from? If a people is tired, how do they get rejuvenated? Surely this is a work of the Spirit, but, just as surely, there are things leaders can do to create energetic conditions, right?
15 years ago I was part of an “emergent” church before that’s what they were called, and that place was bursting with energy. Most of the participants were in their 20’s and 30’s (there was a nursery but no youth group), and the pastor was a terrific, thoughtful, musically talented guy. Every gathering created a kind of buzz that took a few days to wear off.
Is that the key? A demographic? A dynamic leader?
Is the creation of energy a leadership competency? If we don’t have it, where do we get it?