It is inevitable for most church boards that, during times of uncertainty (like now) or contentious board discussions (potentially like now), people get to thinking, if only we knew more … or if only the people on the other side of the issue understood more … we could finally move forward. In such moments, there may be appeals to data, research, studies, or surveys. “They” get quoted a lot (as in, “you know there are a lot of people who don’t agree with this”).
The thing is, working through disagreements or bridging potent divides is rarely about refining the data. There is a pastor who has thought, in more than one congregation, that getting everyone to wear t-shirts to church that say “It’s not about more information” would be a gigantic leap forward. (Maybe such an idea needs to be updated in 2020 to a Zoom background with those words over everyone’s left shoulder.)
Data should not be ignored, but it can’t clarify everything, and it shouldn’t be used to weaponize opinions to prove some sort of game-like superiority.
Just yesterday, as we were working on this, Seth Godin weighed in (how great he is at coming alongside us in our wonderings!):
“All anecdote and no data”
That’s a criticism, of course. A report, study or testimony that’s all anecdote with no data carries little in the way of actionable information.
On the other hand, if you want to change people’s minds, “all data and no anecdote” isn’t going to get you very far.
We act on what we understand, we understand what fits into our worldview and we remember what we act on.
In any setting – and especially among faith communities and church boards – a “balanced diet” of information and story, of passion and analysis, guides us best. When those balances go “on tilt,” it is rarely good for those who have gathered, or for the decisions and choices they make.
That balance is always needed, but even more so right now.
In his 1984 book, Guerrillas of Grace, Ted Loder offers a prayer worth revisiting today.
Sometimes it Just Seems to Be Too Much
it just seems to be too much:
too much violence, too much fear;
too much of demands and problems;
too much of broken dreams and broken lives;
too much of war and slums and dying;
too much of greed and squishy fatness
and the sounds of people
devouring each other
and the earth;
too much of stale routines and quarrels,
unpaid bills and dead ends;
too much of words lobbed in to explode
and leaving shredded hearts and lacerated souls;
too much of turned away backs and yellow silence,
red rage and the bitter taste of ashes in my mouth.
Sometimes the very air seems scorched
by threats and rejection and decay
until there is nothing
but to inhale pain
and exhale confusion.
Too much of darkness, Lord,
too much of cruelty
Too much, Lord,
Or is it too little,
too little of compassion,
too little of courage,
too little of music
make of me some nourishment
for these starved times,
some food for my brothers and sisters
who are hungry for gladness and hope,
that, being bread for them,
I may also be fed
and be full.
What would you put in the “too much” column right now for your world? For your church?
What would you put in the “too little” column right now for your world? For your church?
How can you work together as a church board to help your pastor and your congregation find a better balance in this time of too much and too little?