With Dr. Bruce Hartung
Q: Our congregation’s stewardship board meetings are going nowhere. We have regular meetings, but very few creative ideas surface. In fact, there is very little discussion in these meetings.
We need to help our members think about being more cheerful and generous givers.
People on other committees of our congregation tell me that their committees don’t have much energy for work either.
Our congregation needs some new ideas, which are not coming from our own leaders.
How do we help our members get such new ideas? Better yet, how do we help find members who are creative?
A: My response may take a different turn from the direct answer you might expect.
The first place you should look is into the nature and function (or process) of your meetings themselves.
If people are not creatively engaged in the “business” of the committee, there probably are some impediments that relate more to the nature of the relationships of the committee members, rather than to what people would be talking about.
I highly recommend to you Patrick Lencioni’s 2002 book titled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (available through Jossey-Bass). The dysfunctions he identifies are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.
Consider making this book available for the members of your stewardship committee to read and discuss.
Using Lencioni’s way of understanding team dysfunction, I suggest that you start by reflecting on the area of trust among committee members. I think this is necessary to help people become willing to share their creative thoughts, rather than fearing that their thoughts will be criticized or dismissed.
How do you begin with building trust?
One way is for committee members to share information about themselves. For instance, rather than having one person lead meeting devotions, members could be asked to share something about the personal meaning a particular biblical text or story might have for them.
Or, committee members could be asked to share about something in their personal lives, for which prayers could be offered.
The point here is to give committee members opportunities to interact at a personal level.
People often gather for business, but attempt to conduct their business without attention to building personal relationships. When that is the case, the business usually does not get done well.
To use Lencioni’s term, people think they must project an air of “invulnerability,” which does not enable them to mobilize their creative juices. Or, put another way, if I am not sure my ideas can receive a hearing and if I worry that they may be judged and shot down, then I will not share them. As a result, I will either just be quiet or agree with whatever surfaces in the meeting.
So, start with the basics, which always is to start with the process of building relationships among people. And please let me know how it goes.
In last month’s column, I gave an incorrect Web address for Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. The correct address is www.ctsfw.edu. I apologize for this error.
Another good resource for helping young people decide whether to choose a church vocation — the topic of last month’s column — is the Synod’s “What a Way” Web site at www.whataway.org.
Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is dean of Ministerial Formation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted March 2, 2007