Look up the words “common good” on Wikipedia, and you’ll find several examples of what the “common good” refers to in various religious and spiritual teachings, and a more general definition that states, “… the common good describes a specific ‘good’; that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. “
Take a look at the state of politics and you’ll know figuring out what this means isn’t an exact science! Everyone has a different idea of what is best.
As church leaders, too, we struggle with this. We strive for what is good for the whole of our congregation or church “community.” But it’s not always easy.
People are individuals and what is good for one may not seem quite as beneficial to the next.
Without a deep understanding of the humanity of each individual in our church community, as well as of ourselves, striving for “the common good” can feel more like tug-of-war than peaceful communion!
If what’s good for one isn’t necessarily what’s good for another, how can we really work together more effectively, respecting differences, and turning those differences into assets for the church?
1. Assume the best of each other. They may not be doing it your way, but they have a reason for it. Listen for that reason. See if you can get where they are coming from. Even if you don’t agree.
2. Listen deeply. People will tell you all sorts of things they don’t even realize they are saying. I’ll never forget the time Mary told me more than she had ever intended about what was behind her thought process. Afterwards, she wasn’t sure whether to burst in to tears, run and hide, or laugh sheepishly. Laughter is what came out. We both felt relieved.
3. Understand things are happening in God’s time, not yours. Many a time my SPR chair told me, “Remember, Rebekah, this is a long distance run, not a sprint.” Meanwhile, I was huffing and puffing, trying to get it all done NOW.
4. Look in the mirror when things aren’t going well. Maybe there’s something with the way you are doing things that isn’t working. That was sometimes the case for me. Okay, maybe more than sometimes! 🙂
5. Lastly, don’t take things personally. This is people we are talking about! Reminds me of the quote: “I love church! It’s people I can’t stand.”
Want to learn more? Bring a fresh perspective to your leadership or congregation with the retreat: “For the Common Good.”