We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest
men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been . . . aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live. Margaret Heffernan
The initial title for my post today was “We Are Killing Ourselves & Each Other” but it sounded a bit too dark, don’t you think? Still – it’s true.
As we all know, another loner has taken the lives of innocent people along with his own. These shooters are called “unknown” or “sullen and aloof” with “socialization delays.” Sometimes teachers or counselors noticed them along the way and they expressed concern. But it wasn’t enough. They needed friends, mentors, unconditional love, treatment, protection, intervention, attention.
I have no wisdom for how to stop our national crisis. My life’s work involves church and professional ministry, and in the throes of this work, I also know pastors and other church leaders who are profoundly lonely and broken. We self-medicate. We avoid conflict. We keep our spiritual doubts to ourselves.
We need to make changes in the way we work. We need to figure out how to create social capital.
Margaret Heffernan works with companies and this is what she says about making companies thrive: “Social capital is what gives companies momentum. And social capital is what makes companies robust.
. . . Time is everything because social capital compounds with time. So teams that work together longer get better because it takes time to develop the trust you need for real candor and openness. And time is what builds value.”
Many pastors have limited social capital. Maybe we tried to make changes without first developing relationships. Maybe we love the intellectual rigors of our profession, but we don’t love the relational piece. Maybe we didn’t show our people that we love them. Maybe we don’t love them. Maybe we are working solo in a tiny church with negligible support. Maybe we are lonely as hell.
Our seminaries and denominational leaders would serve professional ministers better if we could teach/encourage/model how to build social capital. Some of our more creative colleagues have ideas:
- Multi-staff pastors invite neighboring solo pastors to join them for staff meetings, to do what people do at staff meetings – collaborate, bounce ideas off each other, check in. Yes, neighboring pastors often meet occasionally in Clergy Associations, but what if there was a culture shift that created a broader understanding of “staff”?
- Solo pastors in several churches become staff for each other, partnering across congregational and denominational lines. (We need to get past the idea that Roman Catholics can’t do things with Methodists or Presbyterians cannot join Lutherans without the fear that one pastor won’t steal another pastor’s people.)
- We need therapy groups/accountability groups/12-step groups for clergy in which we leave our shame and fear at the door. (Note: there are untrustworthy clergy out there. Sadly, we must be careful about what we share.)
Social capital saves lives. This is true for loners with violence issues. This is true for clergy with savior issues. This is true for all of us.