Thursday, October 09, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Norms

I've been reading Discerning Your Congregation's Future by Roy M. Oswald and Robert E. Friedrich. I'm not really in a place to begin such a process, but I'm trying to learn more about visioning, strategic planning and long term planning. One part of the process they outline focuses on norms. They write:

All of us - all parts of our congregational system - think, feel and act the way we do as a result of our interactions as members of this system. Family systems therapists refer to 'family strategies' which largely go unnoticed by outsiders and that frequently are unstated and not always understood by participants themselves. Nonverbal exchange patterns between family members in particular represent subtle, coded transactions that may transmit family 'rules.' Norms are those unwritten psychological rules that govern the way any human community behaves. They are generally unconscious, especially for people who have been part of the community for a long time. People are not trying to keep 'secrets' from one another. Norms simply are by definition unconscious and therefore unspoken.

This made me think about those unwritten rules that operate within our congregation. How do these influence our interactions? Our ability to get things done? Our relationships with each other? Norms are not necessarily bad, but they can become unhealthy if they are used to ignore or cover over issues that should be dealt with upfront. And how do our norms either welcome or exclude new comers? Is our process open and transparent or would a new member of the Administrative Board wonder why we do things the way we do? Thoughts to ponder....

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