Tuesday, June 3, 2014

3 Dangers of Quick-Fix Solutions

The garbage can lid had a small fissure in the center of its diameter. The crack went mostly unnoticed for weeks, until the morning we walked outside and saw the enormous gaping hole in our garbage. Chewed plastic and raccoon feces surrounded the breach, taunting us. I wanted a whole new garbage can, but my wife and mother-in-law insisted that it'd be too expensive, that my mom-in-law had purchased a new lid for us on clearance, that if we could wait a week or so to pick up the lid all would be well.

So I did what any husband desiring to honour his wife and lacking in handyman skills would do: I duct taped the lid shut.

The raccoons just chewed another hole. This rupture in our garbage can's protective boundary expanded from the lid to the actual can, effectively destroying the rim that offered a seal of protection from the outside world. With days remaining before we would travel to pick up the new clearance lid from the States, I did the only think I knew to do: I duct taped the lid shut...again.

But we would not throw the same ineffective solutions at this problem. No, we would add more ineffective solutions. Through extensive Internet research, we discovered that marauding rodents don't particularly enjoy chili powder. Thus, along with our ingenious duct tape defense system, we added a layered moat of chili powder to our garbage can. Days layer, when we arrived back from my mother-in-law's home with a clearance garbage can lid in tow, we were met with the picture below:

Duct tape and chili powder won't stop a determined raccoon. Plus, the new garbage can lid didn't fit. We now need--and, really, have always needed--to purchase a new garbage can, one with a bit stronger lid.

I wonder if we often take the same quick-fix approach in ministry. Whether it's money (this will cost too much!), time (this will take too long!), or energy (I don't have the capacity for this!), many of the solutions we offer in ministry contexts are short-term and quick-fix, reactionary and impulsive decisions to put a band-aid on a wound requiring surgery.

Perhaps it's the quick acceptance or hire of a seemingly dynamic leader without examining their character. Maybe it's the quick paint job to cover the growing water stain in the ceiling, one that indicates a destructive ongoing leak. Maybe it's adding an extra meeting to the schedule in hopes of getting a team on the same page, when it's a lack of trust in leadership or poor organizational communication leading to the problem. Perhaps it's going with the cheaper website / sound system / seating because we just don't want to pay that much for something so temporary. But these quick-fix solutions often come back to cause more systemic harm than good.

Here are three dangers of quick-fix solutions in ministry:

1. They give the illusion of health and success. In a culture which values immediacy and decisive leadership, quick-fix solutions may offer temporary comfort and relief that looks like ministry health. Much like a fad diet may help a person lose large amounts of weight in a short period of time, a quick-fix solution gives an appearance of healthy change. But fast weight loss doesn't equal sustainable weight loss, and actually may be doing more harm to the body.

2. They ignore systems. A significant part of leadership is viewing every church and organization through the paradigm of systems thinkingThe predominant New Testament image for the church is a body. There are individual parts, but there is also the whole body, the whole church. Like the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body of Christ, if one part suffers, all suffer; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Problems begin to occur when one part decides that it is the most important in the whole body. Its vision, its ideas, its agenda, its programs, and its budget all take precedent over the other parts of the body. Quick-fix ministry solutions look only at the immediate problem and care little for the whole system. Each part affects the others, and a solution in one arena may create more problems in another.

3. They are rarely discerned through prayer and God's wisdom. When a problem is urgent and looming, it feels like there isn't time to pray and discern what God might be doing. Pragmatism begins to overrule providence. Yet God works in slow and quiet ways--the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, after all. When we embrace a spirituality of waiting, we begin to become more in tune with the rhythms of Christ. When he walked the earth, he never seemed rushed or urgent or overly driven to get things done. He was centered on his mission and focused on loving and healing people. Being more like Jesus requires times of quiet prayer and waiting and listening. When we adopt such a posture, quick-fix solutions become unnecessary.

What quick-fix solutions are you currently using in your own ministry context? Your family? Your marriage? What action can you take today to pursue sustainable and holistic health?

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