In his interesting little book, “101 Things I Learned In Architecture School,” Matthew Frederick shares creative wisdom from the point of view of an architect—wisdom that is absolutely transferrable to all manner of disciplines, including church leadership.
As I was reading through “101 Things,” I was struck by #29: “Being process-oriented, not product driven, is the most important and difficult skill for a designer to develop.” Frederick’s outline of what it means to be process-driven rather than product-driven is absolute gold for church leaders.
And since the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is about to gather church leaders for it’s General Assembly, I would like to share some of the vital lessons to be learned from Frederck’s outline.
What I would love for our the leaders at the General Assembly to do first—before they start debating, arguing, preaching and whatnot is to gather together and read this list. Because being process-oriented means:
- Seeking to understand a design problem before chasing after solutions.
Are we really interested in understanding what we are handling before we try to “fix” it?
- Not force-fitting solutions to old problems onto new problems.
Maybe the way we’ve always solved our differences in the past, isn’t exactly the best way to solve them now. It’s really not the 19th century any longer. Really.
- Removing yourself from prideful investment in your projects and being slow to fall in love with your ideas.
Are we actually able to see things through the eyes of others? Are the ways we want to solve problems the best way for all of us, or are we missing something?
- Making design decisions conditionally—that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution.
We need to approach our solutions to our disagreements and major issues with humility, and also a bit of fearlessness—not afraid to try and fail in our efforts to find common ground.
- Knowing when to change and when to stick with previous decisions.
Sometimes we need to be willing to admit that what has been done before isn’t exactly the best way to solve problems or mediate divisive issues now.
- Accepting as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do.
When we are able to be comfortable with uncertainty, we are freed from the need to be right all of the time.
- Always asking “What if…?” regardless of how satisfied you are with your solution.
Asking this question is a grace-filled exercise. It should go without saying that grace is a vital part of our decision-making and must be a part of what happens after decisions are made.
I realize that my simple request has no chance in heck of being honored. But still—it’s worth putting out there. Who knows? Perhaps some brave commissioner will find a way to take this and make it happen. I will keep hoping.
Leon Bloder is a preacher, a poet, a would-be writer, a husband, a father, a son, a dreamer, a sinner, a pastor, a fellow-traveler and a failed artist. He is talentless, but well-connected. He stumbles after Jesus, but hopes beyond hope that he is stumbling in the right direction. Leon has been married to Merideth for 22 years, is the father of three awesome boys, and serves in ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis in Eustis, Florida. Visit his website.