Excerpt from Chapter 5: Step 1 Values
“Kent, what would you say are the guiding principles of your church … the core values that influence decision making?”
Without hesitation he blurted out, “How much something costs.” He blushed as if he’d said something inappropriate. “Well, it seems money is always a concern, but I’m not completely sure that’s the underlying issue. The fact is, I think stability is at the core. No one wants to make any changes.”
Without taking time to consider an alternative, most well established churches operate on the principles of personal comfort and status quo. Although the lack of financial resources may in fact be a problem, raising the specter of how much something costs is often an attempt to mask an operating value of self-absorption. It’s easier to say, “We can’t afford your pet mouse” than to admit we’re more comfortable with the way things are in the here and now.
“Except for congregations that have completely lost their sense of identity, a congregation’s core values can be discovered beneath the veneer of self-obsession by making careful observations … and asking the right questions.”
Kent didn’t look convinced.
“If you asked your most senior church members what the church’s reputation in the community was, what would they say?”
“I suppose they’d say we’re the friendliest church in town. But I’ve visited some of the other churches around here and we’re not even close.”
“Perhaps not, but there’s something driving that notion. If an attorney asked for evidence for their friendliness, what would they offer?”
The pastor stared off into the distance for a bit while he pondered. “I know that my own biases are creeping in here, but I suspect they’d point to the way they welcome visitors by having them stand up and introduce themselves to the whole congregation. They say it helps them get to know the visitors so they can really welcome them. I’ve told them repeatedly that the practice is one of the reasons most of our guests never return, but they’ve been resistant so far.”
“Well, you’re right of course. Identifying guests like that is a serious breach of etiquette, but behind the errant practice is one of your congregation’s core operating principles: hospitality.”
“But they’re not being hospitable,” he protested. “In fact, just the opposite.”
“Yes, but it’s because they’re projecting their own preferences on your visitors. They don’t understand they’re not being hospitable … indeed, as you say, just the opposite. They believe they’re being exceptionally welcoming.”
“So, if hospitality is one of our values, how do you explain the ‘stand and be recognized’ humiliation they put our visitors through? The only ones thinking it’s hospitable are those in our church.”
“That’s exactly the point. Remember, without a big mouse a church will default to personal preference and status quo. The members of the church like what they like and they don’t want anything to change. So they do what they’ve always done because they like what they’ve always done. And even if they don’t like something, they’re not particularly interested in changing it because that would upset the status quo.
“In this case, it’s all about them, not the visitor. And yet they believe they’re being hospitable because they’ve projected their personal preferences onto it.”