I am currently in the midst of a lengthy process to become a member at our church. For those that are not church-goers or attend one of those new-fangled churches that think membership is only for CostCo and the occult, I believe being a member of a church is a really positive thing. In my opinion it shows a profound understanding of the interdependence of humanity and our ancient need to commit to a people and place.
So I deeply believe in church membership, but I’m thinking about quitting our church’s process.
My exploration of membership began when my wife and I were talking about baptizing our infant son. At our church, in order for an infant to be baptized, their parents must be members. I decided against pointing out the story in which an Ethiopian Eunich (a sexually ambiguous someone) was baptized by Phillip at the very sight of water. God forbid my son casually drive by the pacific ocean with a member of our church and ask to be baptized – they’d point him to a stack of paper work.
I am in the midst of a 5-page document comprised of check boxes and essay questions. I don’t mind essay questions, but these are getting absurd. I am more than happy to talk how my faith has been a source of strength throughout my youth and adult years. That seems relevant. But then you ask about a “life experience” that has shaped who I am. First of all, am I writing a memoir or trying to get my baby baptized? Secondly, how much time do you have? And then you ask me “Where do you want to serve?” Prison ministry? Underserved youth? You know what I really want to serve? I want to serve margaritas on Cinco De Mayo. Comprehende? Frustrated by this membership process, I quit.
Soon after setting down the membership application, I began to feel like a hypocrite. As a consultant, many of our clients get the same “process fatigue” I had. But rather than pouting like me, I urge them to take the process seriously. Executives generally don’t enjoy seeing a consultant in their halls to begin with, but when we ask them to fill in a few blanks of a template document that’s content they seem to understand intuitively, their expensive blood begins to boil. They see the processes we invite them to as hoops and hurdles to overcome rather than being of any assistance.
But I beg our clients to see the importance of slowing down, thinking through each question, and choosing good language. Why? Because I believe that good process adds more value than good ideas.
We see it all around us. A good coffee bean is crap if you burn it with water over 200 degrees. A good plant will die without proper pruning and watering. A great business idea will fail if its leaders don’t systemize their successes. The most intelligent and attractive couples will divorce if they don’t routinely discuss the quality of their relationship. We cannot rely on the quality of an idea, or an ingredient, or past success. If something is important to us, we should have a thoughtful process for it.
Oh. Ok, I get it. So my church wants me to take membership seriously because it is important to them. They are showing intention and inviting me to the same. They want me to slow down. They want me to think about it. Feel about it. Sure it is mundane, too thorough, and long. But what could be better for something important? Just ask a mother of 10 pound twins. Would she have liked the process to be shorter and less uncomfortable? You bet. Would a shorter pregnancy have impacted the babies’ health? Likely.
We tire of process quickly because we naturally want resolution. We want the outcome without the bumps and bruises of the hard work. We want the product without the process. But we must come to see that while we cannot always control the outcome, we are in control of the quality of the process. And that the process is where the real value is added and amazing outcomes made.
I am certain that one day my son will ask me, “Dad, why didn’t you have me baptized as an infant?” And rather than having a sophisticated theological answer I will tell him it was because of the paper work and the process fatigue. And he will judge me, call me a wimp, and say that I should have tried harder. I hope.