Fingers Pointing Back


A couple of blogposts prior, I noted a situation in one of my classes where I was (somewhat justifiably) unhappy with how my class responded to a situation. It was justifiable in the sense that the behavior of the class was 180 degrees out of line with what I was teaching. On the other hand it created a great learning opportunity.

A couple of days ago I had the reverse happen

Children’s Activity held in Tublay, Benguet after a typhoon

where I realized that I was the one who was 180 degrees out of line with what I was teaching. I am teaching a course in Strategy and Management of Missions. I wanted my students to formulate and implement a missions project.

Based on a Rapid Assessment done by a previous class, the group decided to do a cleaning project in a community. I thought that was a good choice. It is something simple, recognizable, and can be done in partnership with a local church as well as local government.

Anyway, three weeks before the event, the team went to the community to plan out details. As they went around they decided that they had made a mistake. Instead of a cleaning project, they should do a children’s event.

When I heard that, I was annoyed. With everyone’s crazy schedules there was no way that we could change course this late in the game. It seemed to me they were setting things up to fail.

But then as the situation was explained to me, I realized they were doing exactly what I told them to do.

  1.  I told them that they need to periodically evaluate the plan and vision and see if it was appropriate. In this case it wasn’t appropriate. Although a few months ago the community had issues that would be helped by a work day, things were better now. Perhaps, the report from my previous that was given to the community inspired them to fix some of the problems on the list. When circumstances change, one must be ready to change with it.
  2. I told them that one should always seek to link short-term projects to long-term programs. As they were working out the details of their plan, they realized that it would be much more difficult to link a cleaning day to a long-term ministry (not impossible… but a long-term program of periodic work days is not necessarily the best idea). On the other hand, a short-term project with children could be linked quite easily to VBS, backyard Bible clubs, to Sunday School and more.
  3. I told them that the key attitudes for doing a ministry project are (1) Love of God and desire to follow the example of Christ, (2) Respond compassionately to human need, and (3) Assist the Church or the Kingdom of God to expand.  As such, doing something to get a grade is not an adequate reason. As such, I can hardly pressure them to go back and do something that was originally planned simply because “it is feasible to do within the time constraints.”
  4. I told them that key things to look for in a community to help identify of God’s love can best be shown is to discover what the community’s hopes and fears are. Concern for the children of the community was very high, while dirty walking paths was little more than an annoyance. So they were right to reevaluate.

With all of this, my little class (6 members total) still were looking to get everything put together in a bit over 2 weeks. While not impossible, the students have crazy schedules to handle. I didn’t want to burn them out, or let them put together a hastily-constructed project. That was something the class was suppose to warn them against. I jumped in and said that we will aim to do the project in April (over a month after the class finishes). The job of the class would be to work out the full plan, schedule, budget, and all the other niceties that entail a mission project. The host church will implement the plan in April with the help of those members of the class who are able to (voluntarily) join.

It is easy to identify when other’s don’t do what I want them to do. It is less comfortable when I discover that my irritation was misplaced as they were doing exactly what I told them to do.

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