First of all, what’s a JAM? JAM stands for “Just Another Meeting.” You know – like the one you had last month, and the month before that. The meeting where the same people showed up with the same expectations, sat in the same places, and addressed the same issues. JAMs stifle creativity, they lull us to sleep, and worst of all, they reinforce the role of “leader” as “provider of institutional maintenance” when leaders could be so much more: visionaries, sparks, instigators, creators, connectors, sages…
At the Not-JAM, you serve hot wings. Just because you can. The hotter the better. Then you take pictures of your church leadership team eating hot wings and you post them on Facebook. (By the way, the reason no one looks at your church’s Facebook page is because you don’t have pictures of your leaders eating hot wings.) Also at the Not-JAM, you can sit in a different configuration without tables (should we ever have tables?), make paper hats, begin with a rocks-paper-scissors tournament, make and drink smoothies, watch a short film, pair it with a Bible study, and discuss, or meet somewhere else entirely (See #11 The Away Meeting). Remember that stale meetings often lead to stale outcomes.
The Art Swap is #5 in the Micro-Risk Playbook, a resource for churches striving to be less reasonable, less predictable, and more adept when it comes to faithful risk-taking.
Your church has art. Probably lots of it. Lots of pictures of dead people. Am I right? Dead former pastors, dead church founders, dead theologians... On one hand, they're a tribute to the past. On the other hand, they're kind of creepy. Oh, and let me guess - they're mostly male.
Here's the micro-risk. Swap the art in the main hallway of the church building with the art hanging in Sunday School classrooms or in the children’s education area. This will look different for each community, of course. It may be especially useful for churches where foyers and main hallways primarily display relics of years gone by, or just pictures that hang there because that's just where they've always been. What happens when we replace them for a time with our children’s artwork? What conversations do we start when we replace our wall of retired pastors with the faces of our young people? (Are they also not ministers?) What do we affirm when the first piece of art one encounters in the building is a 2nd grader’s drawing of the Holy Spirit?
Lots of our congregations have rich, faithful histories. But asking ourselves what we want people to encounter during their first ten steps in the building is a rich, faithful question. This micro-play explores what happens when we exchange symbols of our past with symbols of our present and future. It’s a playful way of asking, “Who are we and how do we tell our story?”
(This post was originally featured on Macedonian Ministry's "Leadership Conversations" blog, a great resource for leaders and congregations.)
Time and talent sheets are surveys that ostensibly present opportunities for service in the congregation and invite people to get more involved in church life. By and large they are a waste of time. Congregations are rarely poised to activate all responses in a timely and meaningful way, and even if they were, the message these surveys communicate is so often: “Institutional Maintenance is Hard and We Need Your Help! I Mean, Look At All The Busy Ways We Need Your Help!”
Disrupt the impulse to send out another of these surveys with this Micro-Risk, the “Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet.” It asks a different set of questions – questions that are immediately relevant to participants and questions that can be wonderfully useful in helping a congregation take its own pulse and listen to its own story as it’s unfolding. “How have you experienced the presence of God in this community?” is a very different question than “What committee are you willing to join?” “What question is challenging you in your faith?” nurtures a church culture that is often squelched by questions like, “How can we use a couple extra hours of your time?”
For what are you most hopeful? What lament do you carry? Who or what are you praying for today? These are great questions for an Anti-Sheet.
And here’s the best part. The Anti-Sheet isn’t a “sheet” at all. Or it can be. But it can also be a giant canvas in the narthex with paint and brushes standing by. Or it can be a text you ask people to send during a quiet moment in worship. Or it can be a conversation starter on each table at your next potluck. Or it can be an actual sheet – twin, queen, or king – draped over a table with sharpie markers scattered around on it. Or it can be…
In the spirit of disruption, regardless of what shape it takes, go ahead and call this thing an “Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet.” Why? Because you want to send a disruptive message right into the heart of an overscheduled, overprogrammed, and over-busy culture that says, We’re not here to give you one more thing to do. Really. We just value a deeper kind of sharing that doesn’t often happen in other places.
Trust that with one or two meaningful questions, thoughtfully asked and respectfully received, you can learn more about congregants than you can by seeing what jobs they’re willing to do.
A micro-risk is an easy to try, fun to play with, ok-if-you-fail small risk that, when combined with other micro-risks over time, nurtures a culture of faithful, strategic risk-taking - the kind of culture we need in our churches. You'll find a few here, (here, here, and here), but if you're hungry for more, you can check out my Micro-Risk Playbook here.