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Moderator’s minute: Dealing with change

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Since my early teen years, I’ve harboured a more than mild interest in our feathered friends. My Grade 9 teacher had a remarkable love of the outdoors, and birds in particular. He helped us observe the markings of birds, pushing us to be attentive to a bird’s location by listening for the chirps, whistles, and screeches unique to each species.

One of the greatest gifts given to me as a young pastor was the assignment to identify the primary “personal styles” of individuals we worked and interacted with. One of the components of an effective team was to explore our various gifts and personalities, seeking to use each part to contribute to the team for greatest “wins.”

Social scientists have identified four personal styles each of us demonstrate in varying degrees and combinations (you may be familiar with CRG’s Personal Style Indicator, DISC, or others). To help me remember, I used birds to identify these four styles. As we “learn from the birds” (see also Matthew 6:26), let’s ask ourselves which bird – or combination – most closely corresponds with how we receive information, interact with others, and approach new opportunities (change).

Four personal styles

The eagle sees the big picture, and has a prevailing tendency to envision things well into the future. These individuals tend to ask the “what” question: “What will we do? What will we become?” Eagles are change-agents, and call for action.

Parrots seek to affect their environment with their ability to influence others, often calling others to come on board with change, especially if it creates excitement. Expressive and articulate, these people ask “who” questions: “Who is coming with us? Who will be there?” Parrots rally others to join the parade.

The dove is adept at responding to his or her environment, promoting harmony, and understanding. Often balanced between reason and feeling, he or she will ask the “why” questions: “Why is this change good? Why will this be better?” The dove’s interpersonal skills keep others coming along; his or her commitment to be steady keeps everyone moving forward.

Owls pay attention to details and facts, often contributing to the group by providing analysis. They highly value safety and security, and have a remarkable ability for correct processes, outcomes, and clear articulation. An owl will often ask the “how” questions: “How will we make this change? How can this be done well?” Owls enter change with caution and reason.

We’ve heard it said, “Change is our only constant.” Wired by God in different ways, we may try to push for it, come on board with it, resist it, or analyze it. The fact remains – change happens! Staying “as-is” is a choice to perish. The birds teach us that we all have different strengths and methods for responding to life, including change.

Processing the findings of the national office review, the Canadian conference executive board decided we could not remain unchanged; doing so would not lead to “reaching Canada with the good news of Jesus Christ.” The message across the country was clear: we must find ways to unify our vision, collaborate together, and share our best practices for a greater cause. Complacency, fear of the unknown, anger, or whatever keeps us from moving forward toward greater mission will inevitably lead to greater fragmentation, waste, and ineffective mission.

No matter what “bird” we are, our perspectives, insights, questions, and advice are important. As we prepare for Gathering 2012 – where we will hear results of the national review, discern budget priorities, and be encouraged together to reach out to fellow Canadians – I urge us to consider the entire “flock.” We all have different perspectives and strengths that contribute to a stronger team. We all have unique ways of seeing, hearing, and learning. I invite you to ask the questions God has placed on your heart and mind; I encourage all of us to listen to one another in grace and truly be one body, serving one Lord, on one mission! (1 Corinthians 12).

Together, with different voices, let us sing louder and in greater harmony. Together, with different approaches to the mission, let us march forward with coordinated steps. Together, with different ways of living the gospel, let our message point to one Lord. Not for our sake, but for the sake of Canadians who still have not yet heard or seen or experienced the love of Christ.

For such a time as this, I believe, God has blessed us to be an ever-increasing witness of his kingdom work in Canada and beyond. “[We] are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Together: One Lord – One Church – One Mission!

—Paul J. Loewen is moderator of the executive board of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Paul and Melody live in Abbotsford, B.C. They have a passion to encourage the next generation of leaders in the church to impact their communities with the good news of Jesus Christ.

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