Ron Heifetz in his book, Leadership On The Line, tells the story of Lois. She lived on a Native American reservation where nearly everyone over 12 drank alcohol. She started going to the meeting lodge every Tuesday night. She told her friends she was leading AA meetings. But when they peeked through the window, there was Lois sitting all by herself. When people challenged her about this she said, “I am not alone. The spirits and the ancestors are there with me. Someday our people will come.”
Lois sat alone in that room for years. After three years, a few people joined her. After 10 years, the room was full. Leadership is doing what is needed -- not what is demanded.
Two years ago, there were no Sunday Schools for children in Nixon, Bullhead City, Ely, or Elko. There were no Sunday Schools because there were no children. There were no children because there were no Sunday Schools. But determined leaders in each of these communities started Sunday Schools. The adult teachers sat in empty rooms and waited. Today, there are vibrant Sunday Schools in those four churches. The children are present and they have brought their parents.
Who might need the grace of God? Who might need the love of Christ? What form might that grace need to take for someone?
Nevada has the highest divorce rate in the nation. This is not just folks flying in for their divorce then flying back home. Our people get divorced a lot. Might there be Nevadans hurting from their divorces who might need the support of a group. There’s a ready template. http://www.divorcecare.org/. There’s a special version of it for the children. A church could extend that ministry to people regardless of where or whether they worship.
Might the offering of periodic Recovery Masses or healing services mediate grace to someone with an addiction? Last year I asked all our churches to observe a Recovery Sunday each year. One initially said it would be too expensive. Another is waiting to figure out if any of their present members need such a thing. But many of our congregations have observed at least one Recovery Mass and they plan to do it again. At our recent priests conference several priests requested the resources to offer a Recovery Mass. We might someday become a church explicitly for people in recovery, a church whose commitment to being “inclusive” would intentionally include the addicted.
Leadership is doing something new. It’s being out in front which necessarily means being alone at first. It’s risk taking because the new thing may fall flat. But it’s where the action is, where life happens.
There are a few business management folks in our diocese who want us to announce a strategy. Maybe someday we can do that. But that strategy depends on what is in our people’s hearts. I am still waiting to learn that. For example it does no good for me to say, we ought to offer Divorce Care unless it is in someone’s heart to minister to people in this particular pain. What other needs are out there? Needs of the vulnerable elderly? Needs of abused children? What about the deaf? I I have been told (elsewhere) that “we don’t offer signing in our worship because we have no deaf people.” That’s like not offering Sunday School because we have no children.
I don’t know a fraction of the needs that surround the church. All I know is what the church needs. We need leaders with the imagination, the compassion, the courage, and the initiative to make something happen. If our hearts are open, the Spirit will move us to right action.