How to Deal With a Wall

How to Deal With a Wall

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education.

September 25, 2017—One of the first dollars I made on a job was knocking through a wall in a New York City brownstone. I used a sledgehammer and it took me an entire day. I was twelve years old and I was paid a dollar in the form of a 1922 silver Peace Dollar. Not a bad deal for a 12-year-old, especially since I’ve still got that coin and its value has increased over the years.

Leaders who need to address change in organizations often find themselves hitting a wall of resistance. That resistance typically is not overt, antagonistic, and confrontational, rather, it comes in the form of entrenchment, lethargy, passive-aggressive behaviors, and sabotage.

A journalist assigned to the Jerusalem bureau takes an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall. Every day when she looks out, she sees an old Jewish man praying vigorously. So the journalist goes down to the wall, and introduces herself to the old man. She asks: “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done that and what are you praying for?”

The old man replies, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning I pray for world peace and then for the brotherhood of man. I go home, have a cup of tea, and I come back and pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth.”

The journalist is amazed. “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?” she asks.

The old man replies, “Like I’m talking to a wall.”

Sometimes leaders may feel that all their challenges and messages of vision and goals are like talking to a wall. The temptation may be to attempt a direct assault to knock down the wall or punch a hole in it. But often, taking the path of least resistance is the way to go. If you want to make progress, sometimes you should stop hitting your head against the wall and just go around it.

Adapted from Perspectives on Congregational Leadership. Have you hit a wall in your ministry? The Center for Lifelong Learning offers the Leadership in Ministry workshops in four locations: Atlanta, Boston, Portland OR, and West Virginia. Click HERE for Leadership in Ministry workshops.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. 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 and Don Reagan.

His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H), and Theories of Learning for Christian Educators and Theological Faculty.

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans.

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