Friday, October 9, 2015

Forget the Bus, Let Me Walk - When Policy and Procedure Should Bow to Practicality

Everyone knows that the world works better with rules. Things like stop signs and speed limits save lives. Unfortunately, often the same rules that were intended to save lives end up being an inconvenience and a waste of time and resources. The following is my experience in this department.

Last week my wife and I went away on a vacation. We landed in Germany and awaited a connecting flight to Lyon, France. It was a five hour layover, and after travelling for nearly thirty hours my patience was nearly at the breaking point. Finally, it was time to board. Once we had passed through the boarding gate, walked to the plane, and settled into our seats I thought, 'Okay. This is good. I can get a short nap on this flight.' This however, was not to be. Oh, it isn't because I didn't try to sleep. I did, but our illustrious captain had other plans. In his walk around the plane in preparation for takeoff had discovered, much to his credit, a hydraulic leak. He first tried to ascertain whether the leak was large enough to affect the operation of the aircraft. And so, for the next half hour we heard the squeal of hydraulics as they tested that part of the aircraft. This did little to improve my sleep or my mood. In doing so, they determined that that part must be repaired. After an hour of 'repair work' the cabin crew informed the passengers (me, now having been in transit for thirty-two hours and inwardly grumpy for the last eight of them) that we would have to disembark that plane and board a new plane that they would swing into the 'parking spot' only thirty yards away.

Now, here is the rub. We couldn't just walk from the broken plane to the one that was supposed to get us to our destination. 'Safety regulations' required us to get off the plane, board busses, take a leisurely tour up and around the tarmac and finally swing around at the open doors of the new aircraft. All in all, a supreme waste of manpower, money, time, and assets. Could everyone have gotten off the plane, walked the thirty yards to the waiting plane and gotten on board without incident? Sure they could have. Was the tarmac bus tour just as likely to have had a safety incident as the short walk from one plane to the next? Of course.

Here's the moral of our story. Regulations are good, but sometimes they do not serve the good of those involved and never should they be equally applied to all situations. Those in the church who believe that the 'rules' they have made up are a one-size-fits-all solution are simply wrong. The Word of God does fit all. It is universal truth. However, all of those little rules, regulations, and policies that churches (meaning well) pile on top of the Word of God cannot be seen as absolute and universal. If these rules of policy and procedure are elevated to the level of inalterable law you will at times have much waste of manpower, money, time, and assets. On top of that you will have unhappy church members that are forced to go to unnecessary lengths to satisfy policy rather than accomplish what is practical.  So when a short walk will do, don't make people take a long bus ride just because it is in the 'policy handbook'.

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