October 2016:
Already within the first month of our new program year focusing on Growing:
 our relationships with Christ; aka our faith,
 our relationships with our Church Family, aka fellowship,
 our relationships with our Neighbors; aka our friendships,
backpacks of food for Ramsey Middle School families have already been
filled once, St. John’s Youth have already met twice, Missionary Circle
has convened; the building is humming all the time with the sounds of
children laughing, singing (and crying too especially when they wake
from the naps), choirs, brass, and hand bells rehearsals; and as October
arrives the committees are already diligently working at creating their
plans for ministry and forming their spending plans for our congregational
budget for 2017. Our Growing has already begun to take root! (pun
intended!)

Last month I wrote about needing to change my involvement
from micromanaging to a balcony perspective. I have been asked to
elaborate a bit more on what is a balcony perspective and what I think
that means for our congregation. I first learned of the concept of the
“balcony perspective” while participating in a Leadership Cohort at
Augsburg College in 2010. We were assigned to read, Leadership on the
Line by authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky who wrote that “Few
practical ideas are more obvious or more critical than the need to get
perspective in the midst of Action… Great athletes can at once play the
game and observe it as a whole – as Walt Whitman described it ‘being
both in and out of the game.’ … We call this skill ‘getting off the dance
floor and going to the balcony,’ an image that captures the mental activity
of stepping back in the midst of action and asking, ‘What’s really
going on here?’” Later they write that “Achieving a balcony perspective
means taking yourself out of the dance, in your mind, even if only for a
moment.”

So what I mean when I say “providing leadership from a
balcony perspective” is that I will be quite intentional to take myself off
the dance floor of the committees’ details of ministry in order to instead
provide a context/purpose for the work itself. One cannot stay on the
balcony forever, however, and in fact Heifetz and Linsky warn that one
must not. Stepping off the dance floor to gain perspective on the bigger
issues by distancing yourself from the fray is necessary so as to not get
bogged down in the details. But they also offer this: “If you want to
affect what is happening you must return to the dance floor.” … “The
goal is to come as close as you can to being on both places simultaneously…
This is the critical point: when you observe from the balcony you
must see yourself as well as the other participants. Perhaps this is the
hardest task of all – to see yourself objectively.”
This is all a bit abstract, but it is nevertheless for me – and I think
also for our life together– a vitally important change. By being intentional
about providing leadership from a balcony perspective is, I believe,
necessary for our Growing deeper in Faith, Fellowship, and Friendships
to which God has called us.
~Pastor Mark