Should church leaders be “Group Environmentalists” or “Group Programmers?”
What organizations choose to measure is important. It is always interesting to hear a pastor’s response to the question, “So how are things going at the church?” Most often their answer circles aimlessly then returns to the same place for an answer (usually preceded by a qualification). It goes something like, “I know that it’s not everything, but giving and attendance have been up the last few weeks.” Church leaders know that they should measure, and hence, define success, by something other than only giving and attendance, but they are at a loss to know what or how. How do you measure things like spontaneity, community and belonging?
Not only is it true that it is dangerous to be without clear aims -- “to aim at nothing is to hit it with amazing accuracy,” but, as well, when we measure the wrong things, those things can take on an importance they do not deserve.
When there is a favourable environment people make spontaneous choices regarding to whom they want to belong. They don’t need it done for them. They don’t need strong leadership, vision and values statements, or programmed structures.
Churches can help people find the type of connections that they are looking for in their lives by striving to create healthy environments in which people naturally connect. If they would concentrate upon facilitating the environment instead of the result (such as, people experiencing community), we might see healthy, spontaneous community emerge.
“Group Environmentalists” practice restraint when it comes to controlling the results. They are primarily concerned with creating a healthy climate for spontaneity to occur. They develop simple environmental parameters and then sit back to see what happens.
“Group Programmers,” on the other hand, take control.
Four Spaces of Belonging Defined
"A congregation is healthy when it promotes significant belonging in all four spaces and helps people grow in each space. Assembly line processing through the spaces is not healthy.”
Public belonging occurs when people connect through an outside influence, fans of a sports team for example. These relationships carry great significance in our lives.
Social belonging occurs when we share “snapshots” of what it would be like to be in personal space with us. Social belonging is important because (1) it provides the space for neighbour-like relationships, and (2) it provides a safe space for selecting people with whom we would like to develop deeper relationships.
Through personal belonging, we share private (not “naked”) experiences, feelings and thoughts. “Close friends” inhabit this space.
In intimate belonging, we share “naked” experiences, feelings and thoughts. We have very few relationships that are intimate.
“These four relational spaces are not a process for growing healthy connections. Healthy community comes when we hold harmony among the spaces. Likewise, a congregation is healthy when it promotes significant belonging in all four spaces and helps people grow in each space. Assembly line processing through the spaces is not healthy.” Pg. 107
A more extensive summary can be found at http://noguarantees.blogspot.com/2004/11/search-to-belong.html
The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups. Joseph R. Myers (Zondervan, 2003)