Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Risky Business" + "Old School" = Transformation: Reminder Equation for Congregations

I receive inspiration from stories of changed lives through innovation.

Boarding schools in theory aren't innovative, but a public boarding charter school in Washington, D.C. (featured on "60 Minutes"), is innovative because it creates opportunities for change and success for youth at risk in the city. Children aren't required to attend the Seed School in SE Washington, they go by choice and application. Students are awarded admission via lottery.

Without realizing it until today, the common thread in my most recent posts is the importance of safety in order to thrive. For congregational meetings, a safe place through boundaries should be fostered in order that all parties have the opportunity to speak. For cities to thrive culturally and economically, citizens need to feel safe. For children to concentrate on their learn at school, they need to feel safe. The threat of violence, public ridicule, or humiliation can drive and group toward paralyzing anxiety. But no system of safety is impermeable. Safety is not the only issue, as healthy social situations balance both safety and risk. Two business people recognized the creative tension of working with safety and risk, and an innovative educational model birthed.

What I find compelling about the school is the testimonials and results of the students and the entrepreneurial acumen of the school's founders, gathering both public and private money to build the school. Kids and families opened the emotional vault for anything related to The Seed School. The Seed School also has a track record of success in test scores and college placement. Is the school perfect? No. But the school raised the bar for education, caused reflection on education practices, and changed the lives of dozens of inner-city children. What a wondrous blending of public and private funds and energy.

Sometimes I see that congregations lose sight of the fact that changed lives and transformation is at the root of Christian witness. Grace matters. Mercy matters. Forgiveness matters. So much energy is wasted on maintaining the status quo in congregations that it's easy to forget that transformation is the raison d'etre of the church. Thank you Seed School for reminding me about the goal of transformation and the thought and action processes behind creating a culture of transformation.

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