Choreographer Twyla Tharp, in her book The Collaborative Habit – Life Lessons for Working Together, writes:
I define collaboration as people working together – sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Sometimes we collaborate to jump-start creativity; other times the focus is simply on getting things done.
In each case, people in a good collaboration accomplish more than the group’s most talented members could achieve on their own.
I was reminded of this last Saturday when seven of us spent two hours at the Oregon Food Bank. Our task – along with about 30 others – was to package oatmeal. There were several tables in a large room where we worked. At one table a few volunteers were putting together boxes which would hold six two-pound bags of oats. At the other tables, six to eight people worked together – a couple were scooping the oats from a huge bin into plastic bags. Another would weigh the bags to make sure each contained two pounds.
Then the bags would be passed down the table to a couple of folks who would attach twist ties and securely close the bags before passing them on to the person at the end of the table (this happened to be me!) who would pack six bags into a box, secure the box with packing tape and hand it off to one of the stackers, who carried the boxes onto a pallet.
When the pallet was full someone else shrink-wrapped it and then a final volunteer came along with a manual forklift, taking the completed pallets to the storage area.
In a little less than two hours, all these volunteers working together packed up 5,080 pounds of oatmeal for distribution to hungry Oregonians. Now that was a great collaboration!
This was an obvious example of people working together to accomplish more than any one of us could achieve on our own.
But I have seen other examples of collaboration recently which are not only about achieving more. These collaborations are about creativity, and hopefulness. They are about vision and mission, faithfulness and love.
I think especially of the strategic planning process which the Ministry Conference, the Parish Conference, and the staff are engaged in right now. This is a collaboration all about unleashing creativity for this present moment, and far into our common future.
Together we have considered the trends our church has experienced over the last ten years, we’ve looked at the demographics of the greater Portland area and the projected population trends here. We’ve begun to share our “one bold dream” for First Church – all with an eye to collaboration. So that together we might uncover God’s “one bold dream” for us – a dream which will take us into the next ten years with vitality and with hope.
Again, in Tharp’s words:
Like creativity, collaboration is a habit, which begins with a point of view. And a clearly stated, consciously shared purpose is the foundation of any collaboration.
Stay tuned – here, in our Circuit Rider each month, and even in church – for more about collaboration and our bold dreams.