It’s the Adaptive Change buzz motto. Pastors around the country are hip to the phrase. Lots of us toss it around as our bona fides that we know all about Adaptive Change. And maybe we do. But implementing Adaptive Change . . . well, that’s another thing altogether.
Jim Kitchens and I have the pleasure of working with the Community Presbyterian Church in San Juan Capistrano as part of the Paracletos Project sponsored by NEXT. Their Revitalization Team is hard at work, eager to dive into new ideas and experiments, wanting to embrace a new chapter for their beloved congregation. What they are learning is the hard lesson of the differences between technical changes and adaptive ones. We are deep in the fallow period of internal reflection. Are we an Attractional Church or a Missional one? Yes, we are Sunday-centric. Why is that bad? Okay, truth is, only one of us – the pastor – is on Facebook, let alone any other form of social media. Can ‘Old Dogs’ learn these ‘New Tricks’? We’re hanging out together on that balcony. And it’s hard work — like using muscles we didn’t know we had. Adaptive change work unleashes a lot of epiphanies, many of which we ‘hip’ pastors sometimes take for granted.
One of the most profound new epiphanies our Team has recognized is that we have been a culture of Church as habit. But that social and cultural habit is gone. Nascar, kid’s soceer games and worthy cancer marathons have grabbed the Sunday morning space that once was sacred. (Welcome to MY world, says the friendly neighboring Rabbi!). And hey, if we aren’t mainly about Sunday, then WHAT are we? WHO are we? HOW are we to be the people of God on the corner of 3rd and Main?
This is the reflective pool we pastors swim in – we blog it, we tweet it, we Facebook it, we confab it with one another. Now, it’s time for the hard work – living into that ‘priesthood of all believers’ part of sharing the lifeboat as we move beyond the drifting stages. In the U.K. the vast majority of Fresh Expressions’ new worshipping communities are lead by the laity. The challenge – the call, if you will – is to partner-up with our parishoners and listen. Stand together on that balcony with listening ears, willing to share the Diana Butler Bass-ness of our shared world, and give it time to steep. Adaptive change is often slow and steady, but it always pays to take the time to gain a shared reality at the start.
– By Deborah Wright and Jim Kitchens, Principals of PneuMatrix (and keynote speakers for the 2014 National Gathering!)