A couple of weeks ago I had a couple new to our church come and ask about starting a Bible study for step families. They believe this is a vital ministry in our church and our broader community and found it a strong bedrock as they began their life together.
A few years ago we decided that as part of a year long series called, "Explore the Story, Discover Your Life" that a computer station with internet access and a small critical resources area would be helpful in doing this series well.
So here are my questions: "When you think through the way as a church planter you will structure your church or if you are in established church, the way your congregation is structured, what would it take to get to "yes" in response to these two ideas? A second question, "What would be your immediate response to these ideas? Would you tilt quickly toward "yes" or toward "no?"
My sense is that we live in a "no" culture in the CRC. We find all kinds of ways to either say "no" or to slow a process down so much that it feels like a "no." All decisions have to run through committees and then to council and then often they have to go back to the committee again. Because committees and councils meetings don't always coincide a decision can get batted around for months before it gets implemented, if in fact it ever gets there. In this "no" culture we live in many decisions never get there because we allow what John Kotter calls, "NoNos " in his books, A Sense of Urgency and Our Iceberg is Melting, to block the way to "yes." Kotter gives this description of NoNos:
"A NoNo is more than a skeptic. He’s always ready with ten reasons why the current situation is fine, why the problems and challenges others see don’t exist, or why you need more data before acting. In Our Iceberg Is Melting, when a middle-management bird tells the Leadership Council of a potentially disastrous problem, NoNo reacts in a way that is typical: This junior bird says that melting ice has opened that canal. But maybe it hasn’t. He says the canal will freeze during the winter and trap water in the big cave. But maybe it won’t! He says the water in the cave will freeze. But maybe it will not! He says freezing water always expands in volume. But maybe he’s wrong! And even if all he says turns out to be true, is our iceberg really so fragile that freezing water in a cave can break it into dangerously small pieces? How do we know what he says is not just—a theory? Wild speculation? Fearmongering?!!! Can he guarantee that his data and conclusions are 100 percent accurate."
Living in a "no" culture leads me to wonder if this is the best way to do ministry, to empower people for ministry, and to carry out mission. Obviously we believed it was the best way at one time or we would not have developed such a culture. But is it still true today? What would happen if you would design your church to be a place where people heard, "yes" rather than "no?" My sense is that to create this kind of culture means building trust, letting go of control, and letting go of the purse strings. It would also mean stopping a cycle of committees and councils thinking through every idea until we feel comfortable that it is going to work i.e. it opens the door to allowing both risk and failure. Do we have the courage to create such a culture?
A couple of things that we have done at Evergreen, where I am one of the pastors, is the policy that if it is in the budget you don't have to ask for permission to spend what is there. This moves the process along in many ways. In the case of both the bible study and the computer stations money was in the budget for such things so we could move forward without having to ask if money could be spent. The second thing we have done is to have tight control of our vision and mission, but lose control of the means to get there. So if someone comes up with an idea that fits our vision and mission, it works in our budget, holds to the theological truths that we profess, and it doesn't demand that others give their time, the answer is pretty much an automatic, "yes."
These are beginning steps for us. My goal is to change my own mindset so when people come to me with an idea that my first thought is, "How can we say, 'yes' and say it quickly?" Are you ready to work toward a "yes" culture or are there reasons why a "yes" culture is simply too dangerous to pursue?