Monday, March 31, 2008

the pinch of reality

I've spent part of today reading Transforming Congregational Culture by Anthony B. Robinson. I have to admit...I was not excited about picking up this book. I registered to attend our denomination's regional congregational transformation retreat next month, and this book was the "recommended reading" for it. So of course I approached it with the anticipation that it was just another fix-it model procured by some denominational figurehead with no real application to my particular ministry setting.

But 2 chapters in I am, thusfar, pleasantly surprised. I have been promised no models, no solutions, and Robinson does not, as of yet, appear headed in that direction. Rather, I am finding this to be a rather intruiguing list of questions.

questions

not what I'm even particularly seeking right now

though I know they'll serve me better than "answers"

Particularly interesting today was Robinson's reliance upon Ronald Heifetz book Leadership Without Easy Answers, another decent work in my library. From Heifetz, Robinson borrows the concept of the Pastor's need, or the congregational leadership's need, to allow for the pinch of reality at times.

I know that I am prone, as are many pastors, to be those who try and comfort their congregants in times of crisis or difficulty. It's natural. It goes with the territory. But not always a good thing. For example, when a congregation begins to realize their children are not returning...some are leaving the denomination...others are leaving the faith altogether... When this realization is made, is comfort really the best help? I'm intrigued by Robinson's argument for another step here. Perhaps addressing this situation in a manner that allows them to feel the pinch of reality is really a more engaging approach:

"Leaders in the midst of adaptive change may offer a thoughtful critique of different options, whether they be mega-church or New Age spirituality, but they will do something else as well: they will allow their congregations to feel what Heifetz terms 'the pinch of reality.' 'You may have noticed, friends, that many of your children have been attracted to alternative spiritual paths, while your grandchildren are going to conservative mega-churches. I wonder how you feel about that. I wonder what it might be saying to us.' In this way the leader may let the group feel the pinch of reality rather than protecting the congregation from it by ignoring such new realities or simply judging them. Without some pressure, some pinch of reality, adaptive work is unlikely to happen. If people, to put it another way, are too comfortable, nothing will change."

I'm thinking...

5 comments:

bojipete said...

"If people are too comfortable nothing will change." Others would argue that change happens regardless of your comfort level and the problem is too much comfort with todays reality may result in tomorrows reality looking at you in the rear view mirror!

Dan Mayes said...

Amen

DennisS said...

Pinch of reality? That seems like a rather mild statement for something which slaps the face and sucks the breath out of you.

Okay, I haven't read that book, and the only Heifetz book I have is "Leadership on the Line". So, I need to be careful here. I don't know what all is contained in the book.

I know the current buzzword is "adaptive change", but it's really the same thing as Chris Argyris and Donald Schoen put forth in the 1970's regarding "double-looped learning".

Good pastoral care doesn't mean the pastor fixes things. It doesn't mean some easy formula, or some statement of how God must have wanted this to happen...

I'm guessing that's why you like the book so far - it doesn't attempt to be a first aid kit, but more like a guide who walks with a person - not carrying them and doing everything for them.

BTW - I thought something was wrong since it took 3 weeks between the last two posts... CHM 7 Dennis

Dan Mayes said...

Dennis,

I guess it could be defined as a really hard pinch...

If I had written it I would have called it the "Purple Nurple of Reality"

BTW...good to hear from you. GOod to find your blog, too...I've added a link...reciprocity?

DennisS said...

Oops. I have a blog? Oh. That's right. Drat. I gotta quit saying something about others not updating their blog very often...

If I can figure out how to log back onto my blog, I'll be glad to link to your blog....