Friday, April 14, 2017

Problems and solutions

But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him.

Our church has decided to try to help address the problem of "the achievement gap" in Madison. There's a problem there, true. And perhaps there is something we can do to help, though I seriously doubt that we'll have any grand solutions. Even a few lives are worth a lot, though.

I don't know the history of the decision, but I wonder how it evolved. It sometimes seems as though we see a problem and glom onto it, work up a plan and advertise for volunteers.

Do we wind up in a different place if, instead of looking at problems, we ask "What solutions do we have? What skills and enthusiasms do our people have?"(*) One fellow in our church wasn't very bright, and his skill set was pretty limited, but he put together a list of people to call, and when he heard that someone in church was moving, he called people on the list to assemble a team to help. That's not the sort of thing I usually hear when the church says they need people to help. (Typically they're short of child care workers.)

I tried to rouse interest in a "What I can do" list at our last church: a list of things people say they're willing to volunteer for. Ideally this would be pooled by local churches, since one church may not have a critical mass of people able to address a problem that needs a team. In practice I couldn't get ours interested. Possibly this had to do with liability issues, possibly the concept has serious flaws, and possibly I'm not very good at salesmanship.

I finished Organic Community tonight, which is about how much better the results are from collaboration and encouraging people to develop their own activities than from "cooperation" (aka do it my way) and central planning. The last time I checked a body needs both flexible flesh and solid skeletons. Still, quite a lot of the appropriate work of a church goes on through informal or almost informal networks of friends. The liturgy, whether high or low, is only part of the work.

(*) I do not mean those spiritual gift questionnaires.


Christopher B said...

I get your idea of trying to move away from central planning but, for what it's worth, I was a member of a church that periodically did a 'what do you want to volunteer to do' questionnaire for about 25 years and I never was contacted about anything I expressed an interest in doing. I did play in the bell choir, mostly by virtue of showing up at rehearsal. :)

james said...

I was afraid of something like that. The volunteer sheet is also a centrally planned program :-)
There's quite a potential barrier for interaction, even in church.