Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
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I’m on several organizational boards within our community. And a couple of months ago, I was at meeting discussing some changes we might want to make as we move into the future. And like always, as we discussed, a few people kind of dominated. I mean, they had ideas about everything, and they made all kinds of suggestions about how we might do things better in the future than we’re doing them now. And as they were talking, there were others who were just sort of sitting there, listening and nodding and occasionally looking down. Of course, this really wasn’t surprising. I understand that extroverts tend to think out loud; therefore, they generally have few unspoken thoughts. On the other hand, introverts will process information and announce well-vetted ideas in a clear and concise way. And I also know that folks with a lot of self-confidence can rattle off all kinds of suggestions without losing sleep over whether they actually make sense or are good or can be applied. That’s what they’ll do while those who aren’t as self-secure will sit there and reject internal thoughts that are a little ragged and that they believe won’t be accepted by others. And that’s what occurred at our meeting.
But I’ll tell you, something interesting happened when we left. I walked out with one of the less-than-confident introverts. And when I asked about her perceptions of the meeting, she said that she thought it went pretty well, but she wondered why we didn’t talk about one particular topic. Now without getting into what it was specifically here, as we walked, I asked her to tell me about her idea. And you know, it was really gold. I mean, her idea was not only right on point, it would have saved a lot of group discussion, and yet it never came up. And so I asked her why she didn’t mention it at the meeting, and she said that, first, she didn’t think it was very good and second, she assumed that no one would be interested and third, when she finally got up the courage to say something, we’d moved on to something else. Now that’s what she told me.
And I’ve got to admit, I understood exactly what she was talking about. You see, I think there are all kinds of reasons why quiet people don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts to others. But generally, it comes down to three issues. They either have questions about the suggestion itself, how it’ll be received by others, and/or their own ability to express it. Of course, all three would seem to be foreign concepts for self-confident extroverts, but that’s not the case for those who are more reserved. They often clam up when they could speak out. They’re worried about what others might think rather than what they believe. And so they stay quiet, and they listen, and then they leave, regretting that they didn’t speak at all. And even though a case could be made that they only have themselves to blame for feeling this way, regardless of who’s at fault, the entire group suffers, because it’s the group, the community that’s deprived of ideas that might benefit everyone.
And because that’s the case, it just makes sense for the entire group to figure out how it might hear those who often never speak. And you know, I think that may be more important for the church then other groups. You see, the Body of Christ has a huge challenge as well as a dangerous potential anchor. I mean, think about it; we’re called to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that’s constantly changing. And even though that’s always been the case, our cultural and technological evolution seems to have picked up steam in the last few decades. And it’s within this world that we’re called to tell the old, old story. And so it’s more than tempting to do like we’ve always done than to risk change. Now that can be a genuine anchor. My gosh, if it worked in the ’80s, it should work now, right? And if it was good enough for my grandmother, it should be good enough for my grandkids, right? And if people don’t respond like they did in the past, it’s their fault, right? They’re the ones missing out, at least that’s what we may think. And in sense, that’s right; they are missing something. But so are we. We’re missing out on what they may offer the Body. And we’re missing out on doing the exact work we’ve been called to do, namely, to make disciples of all nations. And so, it’s crucial for us to encourage ideas from everyone, especially those who often stay quiet. You see, it’s difficult for some to keep from talking, while it may a challenge to encourage others to speak.
But since the stakes are so high, it would seem important for us to figure out how this might be done. In other words, how can we encourage folks to share their ideas and suggestions? Now, this is a challenge we’re going to discuss as a church session. In the meantime, though, I want to invite you, all of you, to get your thoughts and ideas to me in whatever way is convenient for you. And if this helps, you can shape your suggestions around this question: How can Cove improve as a congregation? Now this can include how we might approach worship, Christian education, outreach, and any other aspect of mission and ministry you think is important. And you don’t have to be a member of the congregation to make suggestions. As a matter of fact, I’d like to know what folks on the other side of the stained glass are thinking. And even though you can certainly respond through social media and e-mail, you can also drop suggestions in the mail slot located at the back of the church. And your suggestion can be anonymous. You have my word, that every suggestion will be presented at the next session meeting and given to the ruling elder responsible for this particular aspect of our work.
Now, I’m going to bring up the idea mentioned by woman with whom I talked at the next meeting. And even though I won’t claim it as my own, I also won’t put her in a potentially embarrassing situation. And I’m going to do it, because her suggestion was just that good. And right now, I’m challenging all of us to do the same for the sake of our congregation and the God’s Kingdom. Let’s all jot down some ideas that might move us effectively into the future. Of course, I’m confident that we won’t be able to follow all the suggestions, especially since some may suggest actions that move in opposite directions. Still, we’ll consider them all. In fact, the only ideas that we can’t consider are those that haven’t been shared.