Rules of improv and Church

Tina Fey has a book out she titled, Bossypants which is amazingly funny and fantastic.  I recommend it.

In that book Fey shares that the rules of improv dovetail nicely not only as rules for comedy but also as rules for living and leadership.  I share the improv rules here as a way to encourage some thought and perhaps add a little thinking of my own.

Start with yes
Say yes, and
Make statements do not ask questions all the time
There are no mistakes, only opportunities 

In the church I have encountered the violation of the first rule more often than any other rule (or commandment). When there is anything in the church, from decisions to change a ministry name to let a ministry die to unorthodox teaching, few people begin with yes.  But this is not anyone's fault, it is the nature of institutions.  Brian McLaren shared that institutions are there to preserve the progress made by movements.  As such, institutions tend to look at new things as a potential threat to that which the institution is created to preserve.  I get it.  But it is not helpful to move forward in light of the numbers that point to the UMC has about 18 years left before we start loosing a great number of people (Boomers) to death.  Is the church willing or even able to start with yes?

Maybe it is because I do not hear most church leaders begin with yes that I do not hear the phrase, "yes and" but that is a very uncommon statement as well.  It is not unheard of, but uncommon in my experience.  It drives me nuts.  In a session when we are talking about ideas for a new way to connect with people in worship, any idea that is thrown out there is usually shot down if it is not thought out all the way through.  It violates all the rules of brainstorming there are, but churches seem to be excel at horrible brainstorming.  How can we help people brainstorm in the church, or is by nature of institutions to fear brainstorming as a potential threat to that which it was created to preserve?

Church leaders, myself included, are wonderful at asking a lot of questions, however that really can kill motivation of others to learn and participate.  Fey has this example in her book,

Bad improv:  Who are you?  Where are we?  What are we doing here?  What’s in that box?
(This puts pressure on the other actor to come up with all the answers.)
Good improv: Here we are in Spain, Dracula.

The problem with making statements is that it makes you vulnerable.  When a church leader makes statements they can become the scorn of the Church (see Rob Bell or Pat Roberson for examples).  To protect ourselves, church leaders ask a lot of questions.  Questions can be helpful for spiritual development but questions are also difficult to get people motivated to help create the culture of God.  Can you imagine if MLK's said, "I have a dream?"

Finally, Fey comments that there are no mistakes only opportunities.  This is a difficult mantra and outlook that is difficult for all of us.  We all have heard this, but we all have some sort of fear of failure

So improv and the Church.  Sure it can work.  It worked for Jesus.