The Rejuvenate Committee and Foundation staff are asked each year when we write our report for the Lilly Endowment, Inc. – What have you learned from your work?
Because we value being a community of learners, we are always reflecting on our work and the implications for change and growth. From the beginning of Rejuvenate, we have learned that education is critical to changing behavior. As new skills are learned, new behaviors can be tested and healthy choices celebrated. One of the observations I have made over the last three years is that as better financial decisions are made by individuals, families and churches, healthier decisions are being made in other areas as well.
I have learned so much as I work with clergy and congregations. Let me share some of the lessons I am learning:
- Contrary to popular opinion, one size doesn’t fit all. We’ve all seen clothing that is made for all sizes of people. Everyone may be able to wear it, but that doesn’t mean it is attractive on everyone. It is good to “try on” different ideas and test its benefit. Sometimes a small change in process or action can make it fit better.
- Take a stand for what you believe, but don’t expect everyone to agree with you. It is good to cultivate a community that can tolerate and celebrate disagreement and ambiguity. It is good to hear, “Let’s try this.” Make space for a new idea. Expect push back. It is a sign of engagement. You will need to be prepared for people to leave.
- Magnets are usually better at bringing people and ideas together than bulldozers. The magnetism of the vision will attract followers. Trying to force someone to change only builds more resistance. Focus on the common vision.
- We are an action-oriented culture and yet, often it is more important to just be present than to jump into action. Sit with the problem for a while. Listen to others’ opinions and concerns. I think it was Ed Friedman who said, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Stopping long enough to step back and assess the situation may calm anxiety and make room for the answers to emerge.
- Know-it-alls don’t always know it all. They often stop good conversation with their claims to authority. Encourage healthy uncertainty, while always striving to learn. There is usually more than one right answer.
- Growth can be hard work. Have some fun. Learn to laugh at yourself and with others.
- Be ready to let go and make room for God’s grace to work in your life and in the life of your congregation and community.
Maybe the most important thing that I learned in this work is the importance of knowing who you are. Who you are will determine how you respond to the myriad of issues and problems that come your way in your home, church and community. It takes courage to live in a manner that is consistent with your values. My prayer is that we will continue to support one another with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. May it be so.