One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in ministry was a training event I attended a few years back. All our regional clergy were required to attend this training, and you probably know what the word “mandatory” does to people. Regardless of what happened at this event, people came with attitudes that did not set anyone up for success.
On top of the “M word,” this event was all about helping clergy to be more inclusive – inclusive of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, really any variable you can come up with. So you can imagine how much people anticipated being confronted with their privilege and challenged to consider how they might be complicit in things like racism and sexism. Really, we were off to a great start.
And yet, even in the midst of bowed backs and ruffled feathers, there was growth and learning – at least for me.
While inclusiveness was not a new concept for me, the way it was broken down and made practical was masterful. And among many other learnings that weekend – I came across a principle for inclusiveness that transformed how I operate in ministry and in life: practice both/and thinking.
Now, you’re probably thinking that this is not a new, revolutionary idea. The idea of a win-win, a both/and, is common parlance. And yet, while it’s often spoken, I don’t believe in our society it’s often practiced.
Both/and thinking acknowledges that multiple experiences can co-exist, even if on the surface they seem to be conflicting or mutually exclusive. That, my friends, is not a common way of engaging the world, or one another.
And if we can practice it in our lives and ministry, I believe we’re looking at a world
It’s a challenge for even those of us who believe it to be true to truly live a life that shows this to be true. It means we have to value everyone’s voice. It means the experience of the marginalized has to first be believed, and then to live alongside the experience of the powerful. It means more seats must be brought to the table. It means we operate with an “and” mentality and not an “or” or “but” one.Never “or” – always “and.”
Most of this column will be about intergenerational ministry – that’s my expertise and the reason most people seek out my work. But I wanted to be sure this column didn’t just become another ministry blog – I hope it will be more than that. Because what grounds my entire perspective on intergenerational ministry, and all ministry really, is the practice of both/and thinking. Of always saying “and” and not defaulting to “but” or “or.” Of making more space at the table, and living from a place of assumption of abundance instead of fear of scarcity.
Sometimes I hope to address cultural issues, at other times I may lament my ministry woes. No matter what, though, I’ll always be looking for your input. I’ll always be looking for more perspectives. Heck, if you want to share what “always and” looks like in your ministry, let me know – I’d love to share it here.
Regardless, though, this is about being together in ministry, knowing that we have something to offer one another, and that we’re always better together than apart. Thanks for coming on this ride with me; I can’t wait to see where we go together!
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