A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Letting the Permission Givers Give Permission Is Always Counter-Productive


We all know them-- they are in our churches, our places of employment, our civic organizations, and our government. In fact, they are everywhere. They are the permission givers, that is people who, even though they do not have official responsibility for a task, have taken it upon themselves to make sure what is done is acceptable to them so that nothing can happen until they give their consent.

Permission givers usually have strong personalities and take an intimidating posture toward those who want to accomplish something, though most of the time the permission giver is quite unaware of his or her mode of operation. It does not matter if the permission giver is knowledgeable about the task before the group or not-- he or she always knows what is best, and they will suck out of the room all the air of enthusiasm. Permission givers must not be given permission to be permission givers.

I have been in situations where a permission giver has been allowed by the group to grind everything to a halt because she or he was sure that those who had spent time researching a matter were wrong and there was a better way of doing something or saving money or whatever it might be. Permission givers demoralize people who are committed to the betterment of something and good volunteers in the church simply give up and fade away into the pews. Most of the time, however, it is the permission giver who doesn't know what she or he is talking about.

In the church the permission givers will slow down if not stop entirely new and exciting ministries. They do not do this by giving a flat-out "No;" they will argue there is a better way to do something or that something should be done, but it should be different from what is suggested. I have seen permission givers in the church set about the task of demonstrating that something could be done better or more cheaply, but in reality only waste more time and money in the process. Permission givers spend a dime to save a nickel.

Permission givers have boundary issues. They think everyone's territory belongs in part to them, so they feel free to impose themselves into someone else's job or responsibility. They are indeed trying to be helpful, but what they cannot see is how much they are simply in the way. Permission givers have an emotional need to be approving of others.

Permission givers need to be marginalized from the responsibility of decision-making. They can certainly have productive ministry in the church, but if they are allowed to have their way on most things, the church will find itself discourage, demoralized, and spinning its wheels in ministry.

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