Years ago I served a church with a preschool whose Director wanted to install about 50 feet of fencing between the entrance to the school and the sidewalk that led to the parking lot. A toddler had recently bolted from the building and run unimpeded to the lot (unharmed), opening the Director’s eyes to the need for a barrier. It was a compelling case, so we took it to the Property Committee. They said no.

The committee were not monsters, and they weren’t without sense. They had questions for which we didn’t have answers: what kind of fence? Chain link or wood? How high will it be? Will you fence in the whole school?

We answered these questions with some agnosticism, because we didn’t care about the details as much as we cared about the big picture. There’s a safety risk here. We need a fence. But what hurt our case more than our in-the-moment answers was the committee’s perception that we hadn’t really thought it through. Thinking it through is a committee’s whole reason for existence.

The lesson I learned is that committees are filled with people with technical questions related to the thing they are charged with overseeing and not the big picture. If a fight breaks out between the big picture and some committee members unanswered question, the unanswered question will win. I learned that I need to anticipate all the questions and prepare answers. If the committee prefers different answers, fine; discussions about competing suggestions get further than questions with no answer.

Come in with answers. They don’t have to all be right. They just need to be answers.

[We came back with a more detailed proposal a few months later and got the fence]

One thought on “Answers

  1. Times can dictate the necessity of a committee saying, “How can we get this done” rather than “What are the roadblocks”. What if I child had been hurt during the wait? Committees can become inertia rather than wisdom.

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