It’s worth confessing: most of us, at some point, settle into a comfortable professional routine (a rut, really) that intersects with the achievement of a certain level of competence and the expectations placed on us about the job. Once we learn the job (it takes about 3.4 years to get “competent”) and find efficient (if not effective) ways of doing it, we’ll rarely stray from the patterned practices of routine. For most of us, this happens relatively early in our careers, or on the job: about four years. That’s just enough time to get competent. Within five to six years, we’re coasting.
It’s a case of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” But it’s also a case of a non-thinking stance, “We’ve always done it this way before.”
The danger here is that a failure to reflect on one’s practices leads to stagnation and stifles the imagination.
Donald Schon, in The Reflective Practitioner wrote:
Much reflection-in-action hinges on the experience of surprise. When intuitive, spontaneous performance yields nothing more than the results expected for it, then we tend not to think about it. But when intuitive performance leads to surprises, pleasing and promising or unwanted, we may respond by reflection-in-action.
Being caught up in non-thinking routine and habits may be a product of homeostasis; it may be a question of being caught in the lethargy of resistance to change. It’s a sure sign of accommodation to the system. This is the challenge of leadership: either the system will accommodate to the leader, or the leader will accommodate to the system. When the latter happens, leaders have defected.
Practicing imagination and creativity takes energy. They require lifting one’s sight beyond the mundane day-to-day grindstone and glimpse the horizon. Only then may we gain perspective and perceive ways of doing things differently. The Colloquy for Clergy series of the Center for Lifelong Learning is designed to help clergy leaders become reflective practitioners. This peer-mentoring experience, led by experienced reflective practitioners, will help participants gain new perspectives about their ministry experiences, practice discernment, and broaden their horizons about ministry.
This year we are offering two colloquies, one for clergy women of color, (September 14-16, 2020 and January 25-27, 2021) and the popular Colloquy for Mid-Career Clergy. (September 9-11, 2020 (W-F) and January 4-6, 2021 (M-W)).
Learn more about these opportunities here. Applications now being accepted, and space is limited. Join us!
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).