When you listen to conversations in your church, are they all about “if only so-and-so would come back”, or “It was all that pastor’s fault, we never should have hired her”? Do these conversations lead to renewed vitality? This kind of thinking can be called “magical thinking”–those wishful “If only” musings that really lead nowhere.
Are there members of your chuch who engage in visioning conversations: “I wonder what it would be like if we…” Or “Let’s look at this problem in a different way”? Are creative thinkers encouraged or shut down?
Here’s another good article from the “Vital Practices” newsletter of the Episcopal Church. This one is written by Rector Joe Duggan, contrasting the difference between “magical thinking” and dreaming/visioning, and how those help or hurt a church facing decline.
Duggan not only presents the problem of “magical thinking” in congregations; he also throws out an idea for transforming those kinds of conversations into more productive reflection and self-evaluation:
Magical thinking in congregations can evolve into more honest self-assessments with the potential to transparently open up congregational realities and real life-giving possibilities. A congregation might make a list of its dreams and visions that came true. Then the congregation could make a list of examples of magical thinking where passive waiting led to no results. The vestry could discuss their felt differences and experiences they had with Spirit-led dreams and visions versus magical thinking.
That would be an interesting conversation!