Having Civil Discussions In A Church Setting

Someone says something in a church setting. Someone else gets upset. Angry even. Threatens to leave. Or, worse, starts spreading misinformation in an attempt to put the other at a disadvantage.

Or a church or non-profit organization beginning to discuss a business item. Emotions rise. Lines are drawn. Feelings are hurt. Totally lost in all the non-discussion is one of the last commands of Jesus to his followers–This is how they will know you, by your love.

I’m in the middle of reading a leadership and creativity book. More will come later. The book talks about the creativity process at Pixar studios. “In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires— they want to be heard, but they don’t have to win.”
People discussing in a healthy culture focus on the problem. Not on people. Not on theology or philosophy. The discussion is how do we fix what is broken, or how do we solve the problem. An attack on a person is quickly silenced.

Reading this book, Creativity, Inc., brought back memories of when Dave, Jane and I sat in the conference room in the 24th floor of the IBM building in Chicago discussing what a new magazine with the title, “Automation World” would be. The discussion often was loud and full of energy. The magazine developed from the discussions was born, grew, and led the industry for several years. 

Those discussions were all positive. We fed each other’s creativity.

Then we know of other types of people. They sit at the far corners of the conference room. They listen to enthusiastic people full of ideas. They like to shoot arrows at the ideas, and sometimes even at the person. From the book, “Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow.”

I am by nature analytical. I can tell my level of engagement in the topic by my reactions. If I’m totally engaged, the N and P of the Myers-Briggs comes out, and I can bat ideas around with the rest. If I am less engaged, then the T part shows itself and I instinctively analyze and then look for holes in the argument.

I have to intentionally catch myself and change my thinking in these situations. 

In many meetings I’ve endured, my wish was for others to do the same!

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