[Place tongue firmly in cheek and read on]
We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying your safe, predicable, familiar worship service when the pastor starts in about how things need to change in order to reach new people. Or, worse yet: Announcement time comes, and, somewhere around minute 23 between alerting everyone of the menu for the upcoming ladies lunch and the trustees pleading for help with the raking, that overly energetic person invites everyone to some new hippy prayer circle.
If people want to pray let them come to church. What’s with all this focus on “new” things? It was bad enough when they took away dial-up internet, next thing you know they’ll take away your wooden pews. Just bring a cushion like the rest of us! As a bonus, leave it behind to mark your spot for the next Sunday.
Yep, we’ve all been there, and we don’t like it.
So, I give you this handy, step-by-step guide to make sure that any “new” idea is squashed before it has a chance to disrupt your cherished sameness. It’s all based on the simple but amazing powers of FUD.
No, not that Fudd. FUD is an acronym for three of the most influential powers for manipulating any group: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Spread liberally around any “new” idea or thing and watch it die. If the Grim Reaper had his own brand of fertilizer he’d call it FUD.
This one is very straightforward. The great thing about “new” ideas is that they are rather delicate, so even light applications of fear can be exceedingly effective. The point here is to make sure people consider all that could go wrong first, before they can be inspired by the possibilities of the “new” thing/idea. It doesn’t even matter if the calamities are rational or reasonable.
The most effective, and most difficult to counter, is the existential fear. Here, you don’t focus on anything specific – in fact, the more abstract the better. If someone proposes a new ministry for the homeless, you could lift up a concern about the eventual condition of the carpet due to all the increased traffic. However, this fear is too easily quashed by a call to the local carpet cleaners. Instead, you want to focus on more abstract things like “How will our neighbors feel about it?” Without polling all the neighbors of the church who’s to say? Also, you wouldn’t want them mad at us (conveniently failing to define who them is of course.)
Fear is a very direct and very efficient means that acts very quickly before the “new” thing/idea can get much traction.
If you somehow missed the opportunity to deploy the first tool, you need to move on to the second: Uncertainty. This doesn’t work as quickly as fear but, instead, serves to impede progress until the merchants of “new” lose interest and move on. Here, the tactic is to raise as many questions at as many opportunities as possible. “New” things are rarely fully thought out in the beginning, so by pointing out all the technical challenges you can slow progress to almost nothing.
The two big guns are, “Where will the money come from?” and “Who’s going to do all the work?” Providing answers to these before the “new” thing/idea is fully formed is an impossible task. After all, nobody knows how much it’s going to cost or how much work it will be yet. Instead, it’s up to everyone’s imaginations, and with some simple persuasion, people can be made to imagine a lot!
Don’t forget the more subtle approach as well. “I don’t see how this is going to help us meet our budget”, “Who will clean up after?”, and “Shouldn’t we be worried about more important things, like getting our roof fixed?” are equally sinister means of sowing uncertainty.
When properly applied, you can even appear to be helping. You can insist that you are part of the team and pointing out the questions any reasonable person would.
The final technique gives you the most cover should your attempt to kill the “new” thing/idea be found out. Here you take no direct action but instead maintain a mood of doubt and suspicion hoping to spread it, like a virus, to others. Doubt is the least direct approach and often goes unnoticed. Often it actually finds expression through silence. When the “new” thing/idea is being celebrated remain as stone faced as possible. This communicates how unimpressed you are and how you do not believe the initiative will ultimately be successful.
When you do speak about the “new” thing/idea, don’t say anything specific. Instead, express your concern about how nothing will likely ultimately help and, if by some miracle, change were to happen, would that even be a good thing?
No matter which technique you choose, when and how it’s applied is critically important. You can do so during meetings when decisions are being made for sure, and sometimes that’s the only choice. However, this opens the door to people responding, which could be a bad thing. Instead, look for opportunities when others aren’t around to go against you. The parking lot after church is a great example, as are bible studies, prayer team meetings, or hand bell practice.
Also, don’t forget this is the 21st century! I have seen many great applications of FUD in the comments section of Facebook. The digital age was basically built for poorly informed and irrational pontificating. In fact, when you see a particularly good application of FUD I’d invite you to post a link to this article in a comment so they can celebrate their ingenuity.
With a little careful work, you can be assured that nobody is going to take from you that which you prefer to have. Sure, you might frustrate your pastor and that one energetic person might move on when the prayer circle fails supremely. But, your cushion will still await you and no one will dare suggest any hymn but the reliable standards. By then, you’ll likely have the whole pew to yourself as well, and that would be an unreasonable thing to expect you to give up.