What Do We Want to Create Together?
As a church pastor for thirty-seven years, I've learned that groups are more successful when they focus on sharing ideas, supporting one another, and building relationships. I've certainly done my share of trying to push for change in an organization. I've subscribed to the popular theory of the "visionary leader." This theory holds the belief that growing churches all had one thing in common, a leader with a strong vision. The congregation would spend countless hours on self-evaluation, group meetings, flip charts, and post-it notes. In the end, however, it was the priest who took all this gathered information to prayer and came up with "the vision" of the congregation. The leader then "casted" that vision in such a way to inspire the congregation to join him or her in a bright new tomorrow. For decades, I thought this plan worked pretty well. The parishes in which I served usually grew in number. New and creative ministries and programs were started. People became engaged and active. What began to tug on me, however, was what happened after I left and moved on to another parish.
It seemed like all the new and innovative programs we implemented as a parish went away not long after I left the parish. Either the interim pastor or the new pastor would come in with their own vision for the congregation. My "new" innovations were now seen as old. So what did this teach me? First, I questioned whether the vision might be more mine than the congregation as a whole. If the vision was truly representative of the body as a whole, shouldn't it stand the test of time? I certainly gained the support of many in the congregation, but did the entire body have ownership?
My second thought was more geared toward improvisation. The leader's vision, or any vision for that matter, is not meant to be immortal. A group's vision, goals, and dreams should be alive and open to change. Situations change, life happens, and our dreams and goals change. So should the vision and goals of an organization. Adaptability is key to survival.
People think of improv like stand up comedy; you have to be funny. Having a sense of humor doesn't hurt, but primarily it's about being open to suggestions and working as a team. The team creates something together that no one person could create alone. Applied improvisation takes the skills of agreement, teamwork, openness, and letting go of control and applies it to all aspects of life. No matter what you wish to create; art, community, or a better tomorrow, it's always better together.