This essay pokes about one possible reason for the doodlers’ discontent: Committees are a broken creation of a culture of individualism awkwardly stumbling toward communal decision-making.
First, three stories.
- The village crowds into the gathering space. The chief stands, tells the story, and sits to signal the beginning. Old men and old women speak fears and wisdom and memory. Young men and young women speak hope and passion. Children ask questions and speak obvious things that all must hear. Stories, tears, and raised voices fill the space for endless moments. The seeming chaos slowly fades and the chief stands to announce, “This is what we have decided…”
- Three friends gather at a pub. Mugs of warm stout and a corner table signal the beginning. One by one, they speak their lives and cares and dreams. They listen and cry and laugh. With the last gulp, one among them says, “So, we agree then…”
- The committee members gather around a rectangular table. Last month’s minutes and copies of the budget make their way around the table. The meeting starts, as they always, with a short prayer followed by old business, new business, and reports. The apparent structure disguises a cacophony of disconnected monologues. Votes punctuate. Finally, the meeting stops; they pick up their belongings and their separate ways.
True, these stories are dreams—or nightmares, as the case may be. Stories one and two seem unlikely, if not impossible. Yet they are comfortable, like a pair of slippers, just right after a long day. The third story wears like ill-fitting shoes. The terrain requires footwear, but these are not what feet desire.
Committees are the broken creation of a culture that has forgotten how to tell stories together, to cry together, to yell together, and to whisper together. They are the broken creation of a culture that spends too much time together alone. They are the broken creation of a culture that places inordinate value on individual needs and too little value on the needs of the community. They are the broken creation of a church culture that has forgotten the Spirit binds us as a people and does the work of God through the gathered people.
In the best of all worlds, we would realize that the committee structure rarely accomplishes its task. We would realize that to continue using the same ineffective means is insane. We would realize that deciding together (in Christ, through the Spirit, and for the sake of the mission of God) is more important than whether or not any one particular point is heard. It is more important than whether or not we can keep the meeting to an hour.
For now, we are stuck in the system, left to doodle on our notepads or to exit the system, gather at the pub (or its teetotaler alternative: Starbucks).
Related Post: WHY NO SCOT-FRIENDLY COMMITTEES?
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