It is possible to recover.
It’s amazing how far people will go to disprove this, how powerful our negative voice can be and how programmed for fear we are. This negative perspective can overwhelm our collective planning and conversation.
We do two simple things that ensure we almost always have conversations about negative things.
The first is to focus almost exclusively on problems. Our agendas are dominated by what is wrong, broken or problematic. We spend almost no time talking about what is right, what works and what brings joy and hope. We call the gatherings we have to consider our negativity ‘meetings’ or ‘committees’. If we are being really negative we call them ‘committee meetings’.
The second is that we describe what is positive in apologetic terms, as though we are sorry that we are doing well or something is good and as though we don’t want to say anything about it in case we make other people feel bad.
This behaviour is not helpful.
Tackling our negative thoughts is not easy.
We are programmed to listen to them. They are deep and primal ways of protecting ourselves, part of the flight or fight reflex. Hiding in a cave is a valid strategy for not being eaten. I’m not so sure that’s not how we as a church feel at the moment.
Recovery is about more than positive self-talk, but that’s where it starts. Recovery is possible… but only if you believe it is.
It needs a range of supportive factors to be in place and I think it is perhaps here that we might find some of the reasons why we find the concept of ‘recovery’ and ‘growth’ difficult in church.
Research has found that important factors on the road to recovery include:
- good relationships
- financial security
- satisfying work
- personal growth
- the right living environment
- developing one’s own cultural or spiritual perspectives
- developing resilience to possible adversity or stress in the future.
Getting these factors in place is the first task of recovery. It needs a plan, but more of that later. I also want to write more about this list but before I do, I wonder do how you react to the list in terms of church as an organisation?
Can our regional bodies and our General Assemblies claim that these factors are all being addressed? We seem to be preoccupied with finances.
What does ‘good relationships’ look like for a church? What about ‘satisfying work, personal growth, the right living environment, developing one’s own cultural or spiritual perspectives’? How much time and energy do we spend on addressing these issues? And is financial security not related to supporting these?