While on holiday, we met an old friend. She had been one of my church members in the circuit before last. I had trained her as a Methodist Local Preacher, and then supported her as she candidated for the ministry. Now she was the local minister in the town where we were staying.
It was a wonderfully happy reunion, and it was interesting to talk with her as a colleague in the ministry. We had so much more than ever before to talk about, and even more in common. She loved so much about being in the ministry, but one thing drove her mad. It does me, too. Meetings. For all the emphasis on the call to preach, care, lead, envision, pray and so on, the institutional side of church life often takes over. Those who hope to cast big picture visions find themselves weighed down by the minutiae of detail and micro-management. Well can I understand why the ‘new church’ leader Gerald Coates once parodied Jesus’ words, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly” by saying, “I have come that they might have meetings and have them more abundantly.”
My conversation with my friend reminded me of an article I had found just before going away. Well known British businessman John Timpson wrote a response to a question, and he called it ‘Our meetings get in the way of any work being done‘. Timpson says,
I have a theory that the fewer meetings you have the better you do.
Is he right? I certainly smile at his illustration of the supermarket chain Asda having a meeting room with no chairs, to keep chat to a minimum. While I imagine there are echoes there of Privy Council meetings, I also have mischievous thoughts about our Church Councils being conducted that way.
What do you think? Is Timpson right?
I met George Kovoor outside his office at 7:45 am for breakfast. One moment we were heading to a student common room to eat, the next we were going out for a fry-up at Asda. It was an exhilarating meeting. He told me about the impact of the context-based training at Trinity, where groups of students are based with a church long term. One congregation has grown from forty to a hundred and ninety in two years.
I heard too about the recovery of morale at a college that had slipped into the doldrums in recent years, and the exciting recovery. Certainly, there is a buzz around the place, and no-one had a bad word to say to me about George and his leadership.
I had wondered why he was so keen to meet with me. He is keen to make use of alumni to promote the work of the college. I told him the amazing story of how God provided the money for me to study there. I’ve told it briefly once or twice on the blog. I don’t have time to do so now, as I’m typing this late at night. However, George would like me to recap it for the college mailshot. If I do PhD research, he is keen for me to do it through Trinity and knows exactly which tutor would be right as a supervisor.
We covered other things too that are best kept private, much as they excited me. I could get him into trouble, and that’s the last thing I’d want to do for a visionary leader in God’s Church.
George is such a vastly different person from me, one of the few people I have met of whom the description ‘larger than life’ is worthy. Yet he is sensitive to people of other dispositions. Meeting with him has been an exhilarating experience, and that is why I have written about him for three consecutive days.
Final lectures followed this morning. Jerry Gilpin introduced us to the work of Meredith Belbin. I’d heard people speak of Belbin Team Rôles, but not done anything on it myself. Potentially very useful in putting together teams or diagnosing problems within them, if a little tricky to expect everyone to complete a questionnaire first!
Drove home this afternoon, giving a lift to a distance learning student who lives in east London.
Glad to see the family, but time to sign off now for the night. More tomorrow, I hope.
“Our priorities are that we want to dominate North America first, then South America, then Asia and then Europe.” [Quoted from Adbusters: Journal of the Mental Environment 31 (August/September 2000): 2.]
Set this against the following: in the UK a few years ago Wal-Mart bought the supermarket chain Asda. How is the relationship described? Slogans say that Asda is ‘part of the Wal-Mart family’.
So Wal-Mart is a family bent on world domination. Exactly what kind of family would that be? The Borgias? Or maybe you can suggest a more contemporary example? Over to you …