Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cycling and Church ~ The Accordion Effect

It's harder riding in the very front of a group, since the very front doesn't have the benefit of riders in front of them blocking the wind. But it's also difficult riding in the back, especially if it's a big group.

Here's what happens. When the road is straight and relatively flat, there's no problem. All of the riders fall into a rhythm, settle into a pace, and everyone cruises along just fine.

But then there's a hill, or there's a sharp turn or a tunnel or an underpass that requires more caution. The front of the group slows down (you know, to be safe … or, because the hill goes up) ~ which then causes the back of the group to slow down as well.

However, the back of the group hasn't quite arrived at the hill (or whatever) that caused the front to slow down, which means they're slowing before they really need to.

Then, when the front of the group hits the top of the hill, or gets past the obstacle, they obviously pick up speed. But the back of the group isn't there yet, and so can't accelerate quite as easily. When the back is able to speed up again, the riders in front are farther ahead, which forces the back riders to work harder just to catch up with the group.

It's like an accordion ~ when the front slows, the back bunches up; and when the front speeds up, the whole group stretches out.

I worry, sometimes, that some people in our congregations experience our life together in that way. The leaders are up front, and hopefully are moving along as steadily as possible, so as to not lose people at the back. But inevitably the congregation approaches a hill or a turn or some other obstacle.  

I worry that there's an accordion effect in our congregational life, where some folks who aren't currently in front might have to work hard to keep up, or who might get left behind.

One of the groups I ride with tends to stop and regroup after big obstacles. The other group I ride with just keeps riding, trusting that those who get left behind can find their own way.

I'd prefer church to tend toward the former model rather than the latter.

But it might be even better if congregational leadership would pause every so often to turn around and make sure no one is left behind. A congregation can't spend all its time looking backward. A congregation also probably doesn't serve itself well if it spends all its time looking forward either.


1 comment:

  1. Well said. Have you experienced this working well before? How would you do that process well?