Scribble it on the Wall

Ideation gets intense. Problems get personal. Teams get tendentious.

When you’re collaborating in ministry, it’s important to have passion. It’s even appropriate to have a good fight. After all, if we don’t contend for the outcomes, strategies, vision, and cultures that we are pursuing, we betray a degree of apathy and indifference that will ultimately become toxic to our ministry.

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And yet—since this is church, and since we are followers of Jesus—we want to be kind. We don’t want to fight. We don’t want anyone to feel bad about their ideas, their abilities, their work.

What do we do?

A good friend of mine was promoted to a management post in a tech company. Prior to this, he dreaded work and was convinced that he’d need to relocate his family to Austin or Silicon Valley in order to find a workplace culture that wouldn’t make him feel undervalued on a team that underperformed. So when he stepped into his new managerial role, his approach was “do or die”. He would make a bold effort to radically change the collaborative environment, and if it didn’t work, he’d leave.

His workplace culture was one in which nobody called a bad idea bad because nobody wanted to hurt nobody’s feelings; where projects were carried out poorly and without passion because no one was free to say that the project needed to be abandoned or radically changed.

In other words, his workplace was like a really nice, fruitless church.

What did he do? He scribbled everything on the wall.

Every time there was a strategy discussion, every time there was a tactical problem, every time there was “mission drift”, he scribbled it all on the wall. He put it up there for everyone to look at. What did this do? It objectified the problem. It detached the problem from the people, so that it didn’t have to be personal. People looked at the problem instead of pointing fingers at each other.

This unleashed the pent-up passion of the people involved, who now vigorously collaborated on the issues. They were ruthless in the scrutiny of ideas. They were safe to interrogate proposed strategies. They were determined to locate the cause of failures and implement stronger practices in place of faulty ones.

My friend stayed in his job. He likes work again.

In the church, we need to scribble it on the wall. The stakes are too high to be fruitlessly nice. The gifts are too plentiful to be underutilized. The passion is too precious to be pent up.

As Marie Forleo says, “everything is figureoutable.”

Put the problem up on the wall where everyone can see it and no one is blamed. Pray. Argue. Figure out what’s best. And then do what Jesus seems to be calling you to do.

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