See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth, I tell you of them. Isaiah 42:9
My morning's inbox brought me this passage from Isaiah , sent by Forward Day by Day, the same people who produce those little booklets that have a daily inspirational meditation reflecting on a Bible passage from the day's lectionary reading. (Did you know you can get them sent to you daily by email? Click here.)
Back to the inspiration: "New things I now declare." Let's be honest. As Episcopalians, we sometimes take an almost perverse pride in a cultural identity has no interest in "new things. It's our denomination, after all, that gets this joke: Q. How many Episcopalians does it take to change a lightbulb? A. Why are we changing that lightbulb? My grandmother gave us that lightbulb!
Way back in the '80s, an Episcopalian, the Ven. Erwin Soukup of the Diocese of Chicago, pointed out that a resistance to change can be a recipe for stagnation. He pulled together a list he called the "Seven Steps to Stagnation." The popularity of this list went way beyond the church and out into the private sector, and it's been used and shared by management consultants for decades, trying to convince their clients to not automatically shoot down new ideas. Here's the list:
- We've never done it that way before.
- We're not ready for that.
- We are doing all right without trying that.
- We tried it once before.
- We don't have money for that.
- That's not our job.
- Something like that can't work.
Ever heard those during a meeting?
What if you printed out the "Seven Steps to Stagnation," before your next Vestry or Stewardship meeting and used it to help keep conversations from devolving into a black hole of why your church can't try something new to more creative dialogue?
Another helpful way to encourage a more robust conversation is to try something from the improv actor's toolkit. Instead of "Yes, but" as a response to a new idea, commit to using "Yes, and." One is a conversation stagnator, and the other a conversation energizer.
Here's a challenge. What if we declare Stewardship a "Stagnation-free" zone? What if we refuse to use any of those seven responses to a new Stewardship suggestion? What if instead of living into that silly lightbulb joke, we use Stewardship as a way to declare our own new things?
"Yes, and. . . ?"