Committees, Commitment, Conflict
I was given a huge gift a few days ago and it turned out to be something I wasn’t even aware I needed.
A parishioner had made an appointment to see me but hadn’t said what he wanted to talk about. When he arrived, he said he had a sense that there might be something amiss in our relationship, that there might be some unspoken tension between us, and if that was true, he wanted to see if we could work it out.
I was taken aback. I attend a lot of committee and Council and Board meetings, and I know a lot of you do, too. This man’s question to me helped me realize that I don’t always pay enough attention to the particulars of who might be feeling what in any given meeting. Sometimes I become more focused on the outcomes of discussions rather than on the process of the discussion itself. I can become so focused on outcomes that I too often miss the possibility that someone might take away bad feelings from a meeting.
Yes, it’s a lot for any one person to pay attention to, but on reflection it seems vitally important to who we are as a congregation and to everything we do together.
For any committee or council or board to reach its full potential, the assembled individuals need, first and foremost, to trust one another. If they don’t, they won’t be able to be vulnerable enough to participate fully in the deliberations.
Of course we need to trust each other individually, but we also we need to trust that everybody around the table is committed to the organization and to its ultimate goals. Consequently, goals need to be stated clearly and up front. As long as the goals of the congregation or any requisite portion of it are ambiguous, it makes it difficult if not impossible for any of us to fully commit.
And one more thing: whenever committed people gather to talk about furthering the goals of the congregation, conflict is inevitable. When conflict is suppressed, we are left with an artificial harmony that invites anxiety to remain just below the surface and to flow further out into the organization.
Conversely, when healthy conflict is encouraged, participants know they can bring their passions to each question, and then when a decision is made - no matter how it turns out - they can bring their passions to seeing the decision implemented.
I am grateful to my fellow congregant for offering me the opportunity to move past an artificial harmony and to work toward deepening his and my relationship. In the end, if our primary goal is to build a Beloved Community – and I firmly believe it is - then this is incredibly important.
Which means that you and I have some work to do together.
See you in church,