street signs

Actions Have Consequences

February 12, 2021
By Deborah Weiner, GIRE Transitions Consultant

“Actions have consequences,” my spouse would say to our children as they were growing up.  They were – as is the case with so may children and youth – focused on experimenting, gaining independence, and being ‘their own people.’ Sometimes the experiments worked.  Sometimes – not so much.  The stealing of a street sign one night was an example of an impulse that didn’t work out well…our daughter had to hear from us about why that was not a good idea, and was mortified when we brought her to the police station to turn the sign in, while the officer in charge logged the item in.

Actions also have consequences in congregations, and the wish that some members and leaders have, to expeditiously solve a ‘problem’ in ways that are quickly completed – often while not thinking about the long-term ends for such actions – can illustrate why fast action is not always the right path to take.

When faced with a concern in a congregation – say, the long stasis or steady decline of a religious education program – the initial response may be to act quickly, to ‘shake things up’ by introducing a new curriculum, or (in a response that really might be poorly conceived) to dismiss the current religious educator.  Some careful consideration of the elements that led to the current situation might suggest a different response. 

  • What is the surrounding information that can be gathered about life in other parts of the congregation?  Decisions should not be made solely on the basis of data, but data is one piece of the picture. (NOTE:  none of this is true during the COVID 19 pandemic, when I find data a terrible indicator of programmatic vitality and vision).
  • What have been the goals and vision for the religious education program?  Have they been met, or sidetracked – and if the latter, then why is that so?
  • What place does religious education or family ministry hold for the congregation?  Is it valued?  Visible?  Fully engaged as a part of the congregation’s life and goals?  Or does an ‘upstairs/downstairs’ paradigm exist, with the predominate goal being ‘how can we take care of the children’ (and keep them quiet)?
  • What is the excitement dream that is held as a vision for the RE committee and the congregation, to move the program forward?  Are people engaged in the possibilities – or are they missing from the scenario?

All of these questions, and others, influence the actions that leaders take in congregations as they look at the role and importance of a religious education or family ministry program.  Actions do have consequences. Here’s wishing for more planning and strategy, and fewer expedient (and possibly short-sighted) moves as you and your congregation go forward.

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