Improving all options

Scenario one: Your congregation has discerned the need to reach out to an underserved population in the community. Several church members have put forth ideas about what this outreach might look like. Some suggestions are re-hashes of previous enterprises. Other recommendations would take the church in innovative directions.

The congregation’s governing body puts a discussion of the issue on the agenda for its next gathering. At the meeting, proponents advocate for their proposals while those with different ideas point out why others’ plans won’t work. The recommendations are put to a vote, but everyone is so exhausted from the debate that there isn’t much excitement about getting started on the winning initiative.

Scenario two: The discernment of the need at hand is the same as above. When the governing body convenes to consider the various proposals, however, the leader suggests that everyone in the room work together to improve all the ideas put forth. After each recommendation is made as strong as possible, then the people in the room will discuss how to decide which one God is calling the congregation to implement.

CC Brainstorming - Luca MascaroI don’t know about you, but I would much prefer the decision-making climate described in scenario two. Yes, there will be some real dogs put into the idea hopper. But asking every person to improve every idea accomplishes a few things:

  • It creates an environment in which everyone is on the same team.
  • It deepens and broadens initial ideas instead of watering them down to the lowest common denominator.
  • It ensures the end result has buy-in from each person in the room.
  • It reminds us that our leadership is not about our desires but about the future to which God is drawing us.

Improving every idea runs contrary to the ways our culture (political and church) has taught us to make decisions. It will probably take some groundwork to prepare leaders to consider this approach. But wouldn’t it be worth it to get excited about meetings, knowing that the gathered body will be doing creative, Spirit-infused work instead of looking for all the possible holes in a plan with great potential?

Creative Commons image “Brainstorming” by Luca Mascaro is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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