Opportunities To Do Extraordinary Things
While on retreat this last weekend with our conference's lay ministry students (I'm mentoring one of them), I was finally able to finish Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. I read the book not only to better understand the gaming culture that includes over 160 million Americans, but because she contends that some of the things game designers have learned should be used to organize and inspire people for global problem-solving. Was there something we could learn about organizing for ministry in the 21st century from these insights?
In 1975, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposed a "science of happiness, " a key component of which is the concept of flow, defined as "the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of creative accomplishment and heightened functioning." Csikszentmihalyi had concluded that the failure of most real-life institutions to provide flow was an urgent moral issue.
People desire opportunities for being deeply immersed in hard work that produces results, particularly if those results contribute to "epic wins." She writes, "What the world needs now are more epic wins: opportunities for ordinary people to do extraordinary things." Some characteristics of epic wins are that we discover we have abilities that we didn't know we had, we get better and do more, and "our possibility space expands."
Because of the complex global problems humanity currently faces, McGonigal believes that what is required is collaboration on a global scale, with a long-term vision, aimed at innovative approaches never tried before. Collaboration, she writes, "requires three distinct kinds of concerted effort: cooperating (acting purposefully toward a common goal), coordinating (synchronizing efforts and sharing resources), and cocreating (producing a novel outcome together)." The most skilled collaborators "practice possibility scanning: always remaining open and alert to unplanned opportunities and surprising insights."
Reading the book, I kept thinking that the church is an ideal institution for these new models of organization and problem-solving. The local church is a collaborative organization in that it brings together people from various backgrounds, with various skills and interests, and they work together on common problems. The church is also a global collaborative in that local churches exist within covenant relations with denominational structures on regional, national, and international levels. Plus, we participate in ecumencial and interfaith partnerships that connect us across cultural and national boundaries. As an already collaborative organization, then, how can we best utilize the skills we learn in church to begin problem-solving in our neighborhood and globally?
As we attempt to "match members to ministry," surely these are the sorts of ideas that can help to guide us. Not just placing people on committees and boards, but finding ways that they can maximize their skills, engage their creativity, network with others, and expand their possibilities within the service and ministry of the reign of God, the most "epic win" I know of.