I ran into a problem at my Post Office. The ministry was wanting to do a bulk mailing that was little bit out of the norm. I needed help going through the options and figuring out what would work best for our situation. The problem I ran into was not a new one. If you want to discuss a complicated mailing issue that might take a lengthy, multi-person meeting, guess what? you need to stand in line with the folk buying stamps and picking up packages. This is a bad business practice and probably one of the many reasons the Post Office is failing. Here is why.
They fail to value discussion.
Creative solutions to serious postal problems are not made standing at a window with impatient stamp buyers at your heals. Nor are creative solutions to church problems made is short, stand-up, interruptible, let’s-get-this-over-with kind of meetings.
The Post Office should know better and so should church leaders.
Here is a solution to your quest for creativity–value discussion.
Discussion means there is a specific topic (problem to be solved) and there are multiple people involved.
- Let’s cover the “problem to be solved” first. Every church has many problems that it faces week-in and week-out. If church leaders are not careful, these problems can be overshadowed by the regular preaching and teaching of the Bible. Now, let me be the first to say, I am all for Bible teaching and preaching, but there are problems that are not addressed by the scriptures that church leaders must solve. A church must address spiritual needs, but they also must address human needs. Here is a short list of topics our church has recently discussed: no public drinking fountain, crowded nursery, help with bookkeeping, icy weather contingency plans. If just one person, “solves” all these problems, there would be very low levels of creativity (not to mention lower participation). If there is open, flexible, multi-person discussion, there will be many more creative solutions. Again, remember to value discussion.
- Another important point to remember, creative solutions will take time. If you imply intentionally or unintentionally (remember the Post Office line) that there is only a few moments to get to a solution, it will be sparse on the creativity side and heavy on the authoritarian side. To prevent this from happening, block off longer portions of time in a wholesome discussion environment and make sure everyone knows the primary topic for discussion. If you are the “point” leader make sure you remember to listen more than talk. When the main leader speaks, many times out of respect for the position, everyone else just submits. This is not a path to a creative solution. It is path to a quick authoritarian solution which is not always the best solution.
Now let’s address multiple people finding solutions. This can be tricky and at times uncomfortable, but if your goal is the best and most creative solution, as a wise and secure leader you should be able to navigate this with little problem. Here are three points that should help.
- Craft your creative meetings to include just the right people. Make sure your official advisory and decision making boards know that you will be holding meetings that may omit them. These new meetings without them are for the purposes of soliciting ideas and solutions, not major decisions. Get the right folks to the meeting. This may include younger people, women and men and even outsiders or non-members with expertise.
- Begin with laying out the time frame and the expectations of the meeting. Make sure you let the participants know if there needs to be a decision at the conclusion of the meeting. Also, I have found it helpful to make sure you know if anyone needs to leave early or is expecting an interruption. This will prevent the meeting from losing momentum if and when a key player needs to exit.
- Next, set the ground rules. Everyone contributes, every idea is considered, no one gets hurt feelings, etc… Start with open ended discussion and questions that allow everyone to participate. Again, as the main leader, be careful about speaking to much. Instead, use your position to draw out feedback (i.e. Patty, what do think about this point? James, how are you feeling on this topic?)
Creative solutions come to those who value discussion. I recently met with the management of one of the larger business in our community of 10,000. They struggle with clear communication among both employees and outside vendors. Reason? Their three person management team meets in an office that is less than 80 square feet and always has an open door to the hundreds of public who pass by. Their value for engaging the public is not being balanced by a value for creative, healthy, internal discussion.
Don’t let your church be out of balance. Make room for creativity.
Where have your best creative solutions come from lately? How do you balance meetings with important studies?
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