Reflections on the Transforming Ministry Process, Part 2

ImageThis week, I sat down with the Theory U information (from their website mostly), the notes I took from the Conference and my own thoughts and sought to merge these all together in a way that would speak to the process we are in from my perspective. (image above)

What is that process?

I think much of it has to do with the ending of a way we have done church and a time of not being sure what, if anything, is next.  The process is about how we get from now to our future. It is “the end of the world as we know it and I feel (mostly) fine” but, I realize, that is not true for us all.

I think the UMC has been dealing with this for a long time although few have wanted to face the reality of it.  Many of us were not part of the quest to grow the churches we served by updating the music, ministries and facilities. Many years ago, we stopped reaching younger populations except for a trickle of folks. And from conversations with a variety of churches and clergy this seems to have to do with churches & clergy that didn’t want to change and/or who didn’t know what to do and/or where overwhelmed with just taking care of what was.

As I visit churches, my overall sense is that many of us have stayed doing what we had always done, to the level we have always done it, as best as we can. And for many churches, those who were part of those congregations stayed in place and things were relatively stable, although declining. But now, as a critical mass of people have died/moved into retirement communities/become homebound, the questions about what is next has become more mind-blowing, apparent and frightening.

The chart (which l will call Theory U + Patterns of Awakening Diagram or TUPAD) seeks to take us through the process of moving from where we are to our future, which is, at this point UNKNOWN. (If you want the more pure version of the Theory U, look here or Diana Butler Bass’ perspective look here.)

Of course, lots of us want to jump from what is now to what will be without going down the U.  We want to “fix it” NOW.  But the reality that is being lifted up again (and again) is that what worked in the past to “fix it” isn’t going to work now.

In addition to moving through the process, there is a second thing we have to do: we have to be willing to acknowledge our blind spots.

Madeleine L. Van Hecke in her book “Blind Spot: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things” lists several more common blind spots, including:

  • Not stopping to think
  • Not knowing info that can hurt you
  • Not noticing what is going on
  • Not seeing “yourself” (not realizing your part in it)
  • My-side bias (for example, giving a cat calendar to a dog lover because you love cats)
  • Being trapped by categories (staying in the box)
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Using fuzzy evidence
  • Missing hidden causes
  • Missing the big picture

In reflecting on this, I tried to think about my own blind spots but quickly recognized I don’t have any, but here is the thing: one’s blind spots are really hard to see (being blind spots and all—smile…)—because of this, we often jump instead to point out one another’s blind spots because, let’s face it, that is much more fun.

But what if we spent some time uncovering our own blind spots?  What if we unpacked this with a couple friends?  What if we got honest about what skin we have in the game and how blind that really does make us? What if we asked the Holy Spirit to fill us in?  Let’s start there—what does the Holy Spirit have to say?  Are we willing to listen?

So maybe, just maybe, this is where we start: not certain of our own blind spots but being willing to pray for the inner vision to learn as we enter the process of the U.

Next: Transforming Ministry Conference Part 3