Stakeholders – Part III

Stakeholders – Part III

Another thing you’ve probably seen is when a divisive issue and contentious decision that the community is not really ready to make yet is suddenly forced to a vote. Tragically, the community votes 51% to 49% on it and moves forward on that vote.  That, brothers and sisters, is cultural nonsense.  Part of the community walks away smug and another part walks away angry and disillusioned and invalidated.  Most of the community ends up confused and hurt and unsure in the decision. A decision ends up being made that people don’t have their souls behind and it goes forward without power and without conviction. A faction always ends up trying their best to see it fail…praying to have it fail.  Stakeholders in our community have no interest in seeing this kind of thing happen.  Many of them have seen it happen in our history and have learned important lessons from it.  As such, stakeholders in our community have a vote, but oddly enough, we don’t vote…at least not to find a majority.  Decisions are made by consensus.  We vote to see whether or not we have achieved one.  And we don’t act until we do achieve one.  I can hear it now, and I have heard it from dying communities more times than I can name, “Oh, that will never work.”  It works.  It works efficiently.  And it works with an integrity that simple majority rule does not and cannot.

Stakeholders vote.  They voice their opinions.  Sometimes they do so very strongly.  And they do so with reverence for all that is at stake.  But they also listen.  Remember, stakeholders are learners and growers, not “know-it-alls”.  They speak and they listen and they learn.  They are willing to have their minds changed, and they do not see changing one’s mind as a weakness.  They see it as part of what it means to be both gifted and limited.  They know that sometimes bad decisions will be made.  But they also know that the only good decisions are ones that the community can get behind and support and invest in.  How long does it take? It takes however long it takes.  Remember, not every decision is a community-wide decision.  Most are not. But the ones that are, take however long they take.

Consensus decision-making requires spiritual maturity.  If even one person is masking a hidden motive or agenda, it can do damage.  Stakeholders enter into decisions seeking God’s will for the community, and they know that God’s will is best known when it emerges from the collective wisdom of the community.  It might, and usually does, get voiced by an individual who has reshaped and restated what is being voiced by many.  But it comes from the whole of the community and is affirmed by the community, not by 51% of the community.  It is hard work.  It requires deep personal humility and vulnerability.  Those are two things that our culture is not good at aspiring to.  They are Christ-like qualities, however.

Most often, a proposal is offered.  Stakeholders prayerfully consider it.  They take it in, rather than being oppositional or adversarial out of hand.  They think about it.  They put it back out.  They reshape it.  They discuss it, sometimes heatedly, but always with respect and reverence.  If they can get behind it, they do.  Even if they can’t get behind it, if they see that most of the community is getting behind it, they give their permission for it to move forward.  If it moves forward, they DO NOT WORK TO UNDO IT.  They strive to find a way to participate in its success because it is the consensus of the community that they are invested in to see it succeed and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.  Some decisions go our way.  Some don’t.  Sometimes funds get wasted. But they aren’t our funds, they are God’s, and God can deal with that.

Stakeholders do not get their feelings hurt easily if someone disagrees with them.  They see it as simply part of the process. It is a rare proposal that isn’t reshaped in some way before it gains consensus.  Stakeholders do not look for reasons to disagree, but rather look for reasons to agree.  Stakeholders don’t easily get their nose out of joint and take their ball and go home.  It happens, but it rarely happens.  We take votes along the way to see where we are.  If someone is blocking, they usually get called on it.  But we don’t go forward until we are ready to go forward.  And we aren’t ready to go forward until consensus is given to go forward.  That is the sign that we are ready to make the decision.

Patience is required, and patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  The process is messy…kind of like making sausage.  You don’t always want to look too closely at how it is done.  Anyone who says that community is anything but messy should be highly suspect to us.  Life is messy.  Decisions are hard sometimes.  They are messy.  Consensus is just a better way for our community to respect the reality of messiness.  Stakeholders have patience.  Stakeholders respect one another.  Stakeholders listen and speak and learn and grow and reshape and pray and change their minds.  Stakeholders have a vote…but we don’t really vote…at least not in search of a simple majority.  Majority does not rule.  Jesus Christ rules.  And last we checked, none of us are Jesus Christ.

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1 Comment »

  1. Brenda Said:

    You’re right. Jesus rules. That’s something we all have to work on remembering. 🙂


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