Can the Church Turn Around the Tables of Success?
I just attended the funeral of a colleague from St. Olaf College; she was one of the most unusual administrators I have known. I was a department chair during the time that she was in charge of connecting undergraduate students with employed graduates around the country for conversations about and exposure to life after college.
But my colleague didn’t just make policy, create structure, and inform faculty what we were supposed to do. When our department expressed interest in some kind of program, she would suggest a variety of possibilities, make the arrangements for our choice of possible approaches, invite resources, contact students, set up the facilities and arrange the “educational” opportunities. As the chair of a department, I was daily involved in so many diverse tasks, that working with my administrative colleague in this manner was truly a breath of fresh air.
As success came from projects completed in partnership with her, other challenges and endeavors also seemed more amenable to success. This is no small issue, for in the midst of a frustrating complexity of tasks and the lack of easy resources for resolution, thoughtful offers of support and guidance shaped a hopeful future at the same it brought people together.
Drawing on the dilemma I brought up in my last blog, “Church and the Red Splot”, I wonder if it would ever be possible for our Lutheran Church hierarchy to become like my administrative colleague to those of us in congregations who struggle to find ways to address what’s on our mind -- mental illness, alcoholism, joblessness, diminishing membership, youth expectations, cancer, or homelessness (etc.)?
As individuals and congregations we are often asked to respond to the issues that are of special interest to the leadership at the top of the church hierarchy. Those issues are usually important yet they may seem to have little to do with the burning personal issues that so many of us in congregations are facing – today!
But can The Church hierarchy turn these tables around? Is it possible that church leaders can begin by asking (all?) congregations about the most important and meaningful personal issues they and their community are now facing? Then by drawing people together from those congregations that have similar issues, can they engage them with issue-specific resources and empowering support; enabling congregational teams to do what needs to be done to find success in approaching their concerns?
It need not be expensive to do this; online gatherings can be amazingly helpful. And retired resources may be more than willing to lend their support.
So, can we give it a try?