When I was a teenager my father told me that ministry work falls into three categories: 1. Planting the seed- being the first to tell someone about Christ. 2. Watering the embryo- having the opportunity to minister to Christians still learning about the depth of God's love. 3. Tending the plant- helping someone mature in their faith. This was a really simple but useful tool for me as a teenager- trying to be a good friend, set good boundaries, and have healthy expectations of myself.
I recently realized that my father's tool can also describe the relationship between a reconciler and the organization where s/he works.
1. Some of us work in institutions that need a seed. The organization isn't quite persuaded that reconciliation is a relationship worth pursuing. It is an organization that has been just fine maintaining its homogenous culture, and you are likely interrupting this comfortability. If you find yourself demanding new songs, new speakers, new teaching materials, new outreach ministries, and no one understands why, you are planting a seed. This stage for a reconciler can be extremely frustrating if you don't realize that this is your role in the life of the organization. It is not wise to expect a plant to sprout up, if you are the first voice giving credence to this thing called reconciliation. Planting requires a great deal of patience- answering questions, casting vision, breaking and tilling ground for the work of the Holy Spirit. It also requires a great deal of fortitude. You may have to plant a lot of seeds before even one takes root.
2. Others of us work where the little embryo needs to be watered. These are institutions that believe in the vision but aren't quite sure how to make that vision a reality! Watering the embryo often requires placing structure around the values of the organization's declared commitment to reconciliation. Reconcilers are often coalition builders- finding advocates within the organization, bringing them together into one cohesive group, making an abstract vision practicable. Watering the seed first requires a certain amount of trust in your leadership and the vision they have embraced (and yes, some evidence of growth on their part). Consider, if you are convinced that you are planting seeds, but your organization is wanting action steps, you might miss the opportunity to move the vision forward. Harping on what the organization "needs to do, believe, or become" instead of helping them do it, could be an exercise in frustration for all involved.
3. Then there is the work of tending to the plant. In my experience this is the life span that most reconcilers long for, at least in theory. We all want to work for the organization that "gets it", that has a structure, that has figured out the lingo, that stands as a model for others. But even tending the plant can be difficult. Organizations that need tending run the risk of thinking their growth is complete. I once owned a plant that had to shed its lower leaves in order to keep the plant healthy and growing. Growth meant death for that plant. The same can be said of tending an organization- perhaps the leadership structure needs to be changed, or money needs to be reallocated, or privilege needs to be challenged. Tending the organization is a process that often involves sacrificing the systems, structures, policies and powers that the organization is most reluctant to challenge.
I wonder if you might consider which stage describes your organization. Is your organization a seed, an embryo or a plant? Are you treating it that way? Have you been trying to water a seed before its in the ground? Are you frustrated that the embryo isn't turning into a plant fast enough? Are you tending the plant or just content to enjoy its beauty?
What about your gifting? Which role are you best to suited to embody as a reconciler? Are you best at planting seeds within an organization? Should you be watering the efforts of an organization? Or were you made to tend an organization into maturity?
Wherever you are, whoever you are Plant, Water, Tend, for this is the work of a reconciler.