In the spirit of good communication, please read to the end!

In early August, I wrote in the E-pistle about the story of Martha, the very last passenger pigeon. With her death in 1914, passenger pigeons became extinct. Gone forever. Why? In addition to their preoccupation with family, their vulnerability to hostile environments, and their complete resistance to adapt to their environment, they relied on an enabling leader.

What’s an enabling leader? That’s the ‘stool pigeon.’ The one who attracts all the others and then is vulnerable to even not-so-clever hunters. The stool pigeons helped to destroy their own population. Forever.

What is the lesson for the church in the 21st Century? We cannot be leaders who are too bound to ‘the family flock.’ We cannot remain preoccupied with recruiting children and youth to the church because this leads to heritage protection. If we focus too much on recruiting only families, then we’re less open to singles or people from other cultures which then limits our ‘gene pool.’ We become too homogenous, less adaptable, and less creative because tradition becomes too important. ‘Family churches’ nurture leaders who find personal satisfaction in prioritizing gregariousness, heritage, and homogeneity – all the characteristics that can actually lead a church to extinction. It sounds counter-intuitive, but there is compelling evidence.

Who cares? I don’t want to be an enabling leader. I don’t think any of you do either. How do we change those inclinations? That’s where “Moving Off the Map” comes in. This is not only a visioning process like you haven’t done, it’s a process of systemic change that will be owned by the congregation, concentrated to point the way to our gospel purpose, and anchored in our personal experiences of the Holy. (Thomas G. Bandy, Moving Off the Map: A Field Guide to Changing the Congregation)

Changing things like our programming or even our staff will only keep us tethered to ‘the-way- things-used-to-be’ stool. I believe with all my heart that God is called us to move off the map. Remember Jesus calling the disciples? They were only fishermen; they may not have thought they were equipped and certainly wouldn’t have expected their lives to change the way they did. Like the first disciples, moving off the map requires a healthy dose of trust, lots of collaborative work, and open minds and hearts.

You’ll be hearing weekly from your Moving Off the Map team: Carol Birkland, Linda Jahnke, Afton Martens, Marilyn Carnell, Carolyn Cleveland and Pastor Barb. See you in church!

Shalom,
Pr. Barb

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