How Communities Make Decisions


 How do different organisations make decisions?In the military, the Commanding Officer will decide, “We’ll take that hill.” And every single solider will charge up that hill, no questions asked.

In the boardroom, there might be presentations showing bar graphs on why we should take that hill. The Directors might raise a few questions, but by the end of the meeting the Chairman will say, “Based on the statistics, we’ll take that hill.”

At a tech startup, the founder might say to his team, “Okay, let’s everyone chillax, have a coffee, and figure out where we are, hill-wise.”

But how should we, as a Christian community, make decisions?

Community Time

This week, Seven Graces Community had our quarterly Community Time, when we review our past few sessions and hash out strategic and logistical decisions on where we’re headed. Among the things we talked about:

  • How do we grow sustainably while keeping current members engaged?
  • How should we welcome and induct new members?
  • How can we organise ourselves so that we can grow more deeply with each other?

But Community Time doesn’t always lead to a nice, neat set of action steps and business plans. The questions we ask ourselves are tough ones, and with so many different personalities and backgrounds, we’re bound to have disagreements in many issues.

So we’re a little slower than most organisations in making decisions.

For example, we recently had a session to brainstorm a new community logo. The votes were split down the middle, and even after several rounds of voting spanning almost a month, we still haven’t finalised a logo yet (but we’re close!).

The easy way out would have been to have a leader or an Exco to unilaterally decide on one logo. That would have been efficient. But it also means that some people who feel strongly about another option would never have been heard. Instead, we’re taking the time to listen to each other’s feedback and discern a good logo that we can all rally behind.

Is It Bad To Make Decisions Slowly?

An outsider used to the corporate way of doing things might look at our decision-making processes and laugh. How inefficient! How troublesome and frustrating! How will you guys get anything done if you’re mired in discussion all the time?

But we’re not a company. We’re a community – one that’s centred around Christ.

This week’s Catholic News carried an article about Pope Francis’ direction for the Synod of Bishops. (The Synod of Bishops is an advisory body for the Pope who meet to foster unity between the Roman Pontiff and Bishops, and to discuss questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world)

Pope Francis outlined his vision for a Church that is “synodal” at every level, with everyone listening and learning from one another, and taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel.

Notice how the Pope said “everyone” should listen and learn from one another, not have decisions unilaterally made by a few leaders without understanding the real needs of the ground. In fact, he said that it was impossible for the voting members of the Synod to speak to the real needs and concerns of families without listening to and trying to learn from Catholic families:

“How would it have been possible to speak of the family without calling upon families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their pains and their suffering?”

Our Pope wants us to be a listening Church. He made changes in the synod process to expand the time for dialogue and to create the time and space needed for discernment. This is in the style of St Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit founder.

It’s for this very reason that one of our brothers shared during the last Community Time that it’s okay for us to take time to dialogue and make decisions. After all, the directions that we take and the activities we do all lead to a single greater goal: To grow together spiritually and to worship God as a community. Everything else is secondary.

We’re not a company; we’re a community.

And real communities listen to each other.

Image credit: svenwerk

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