This weekend was the NHL All Star Game. For years I have said that I couldn't imagine how the NHL could make this particular exercise any less meaningful, or screw it up any worse.
The NHL always raises the bar I suppose...
The story goes like this: The NHL opened up the captain's position for each of the four divisions to a fan vote. The usual suspects were voted in for 3 of the four divisions, but then in the pacific there was the oddity of John Scott. This bruiser/fighter/boxer who occasionally straps skates to his feet was the target of a social media campaign. He would under no circumstances be considered an All Star based on his stats or ability. But the fans had spoken, and he was selected as captain.
The NHL shall we say was not pleased. They actually tried to talk him out of the game, trying to get him to stay home. Scott penned a piece for The Players Tribune (warning: language) detailing how the league pressured him, even suggesting that he would be an embarrassment to his children if he went through with it. Finally, his team (The Phoenix Coyotes) traded him to Montreal, who promptly threw him to the minor leagues. It was the nuclear option in terms of keeping him out of the game. Fans hated this move, and made so much noise that the league had to recant, and actually allow him to play even though for all intents and purposes he is no longer an NHL player.
What a mess.
But here's where I think this is important for all of us, and particularly those of us in ministry. How frequently do you give power to the voice of your congregation/students/employees/whatever? And then, in those moments that they may make a choice that you wouldn't have made, do you retract that voice? Insist on your own way?
I'll be honest, I'm tempted. We have in our ministry a Student Leadership Team, who we try with all our power to give them ownership of the ministry. Most of the time they treat the ministry extremely responsibly, making wise choices and in a lot of cases choices that are far better than what I would have done. But every now and again, they take things in a direction that isn't healthy, that won't work out, or simply doesn't jive with our ministry goals.
It's in these moments that the temptation is to just say "Here's how it goes, get over it," ala the NHL. But for starters, no one learns anything that way, and also it makes your leaders question how much voice they ever actually have. If you do this, what you are essentially saying is "You can be in charge, so long as you're in charge the way I would be." The far better way forward is to, when you see an unhealthy decision coming, to work with students, explain your reasoning, and hope that they'll understand. But at the end of the day, if you claim to let someone have ownership, they ought to own something.
How did Mr. Scott do by the by? He scored 2 goals (which is about half of his output this season all coming in a single game) and was awarded the MVP, which came with a mini-van he will need as his wife is expecting twins. Of course, he was named MVP by fan vote. Which leads us to the ultimate reminder: sometimes what we think is a poor decision may actually work out for the best. Sometimes as leaders, we need to let go and let things play out. It's the best way to learn.