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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

nextchurch and the waterbug

Attending NEXTchurch this year I heard two themes - collaborative leadership and risking failure - that reminded me of something I experienced only three days earlier...

I watched intently as six 3rd and 4th graders excitedly performed a skit to "sell" their bug-attracting pest crusher and then loaded nearly 300 pounds on it to crush their imaginary bug.

What I was watching was the culmination of nearly six weeks of weekly kid-collaboration, to fulfill the challenge #4 of this year's "Odyssey of the Mind" contest: "Tumblewood."  Basically, they had to design a small structure made of only balsa wood and glue, roll it down a ramp and over to a weight-bearing platform without touching it, then load as much weight as possible on it until it broke.

This group of six 3rd and 4th graders (and several hundred others like them from our part of the state) all collaborated, tested, and tried multiple structures until settling on one. They added creativity and expression, and included everyone on the team, and they bonded as a team over the weeks of meeting. What was even more amazing was seeing thousands of kids come together for the district event and seeing this played out with greater and lesser degrees of "success" - but with a stunning degree of community, trust, and teamwork.

Odyssey of the Mind invites a beautiful synthesis of creativity, expression, ingenuity, teamwork, collaboration... and RISK of FAILURE.  My daughter's team had to go through a number of designs before settling on the one they used.  In fact, Odyssey of the Mind so encourages creative exploration and risk of failure that they have a special award for it, called the "Renatra Fusca Creativity Award."

"Renatra Fusca"

This creativity award is "presented to teams or individuals who exhibit exceptional creativity, either through some aspect of their problem solution, or an extraordinary idea beyond the problem solution.  A successful problem solution is not a criterion for winning the award; rather, the award is a way to acknowledge and encourage creative thinking and risk-taking."

Did you get that?  One of the highest special awards is given to someone who exhibited extraordinary creativity, even if the result was (apparent) failure!  (The reason for the name is a fascinating story worth reading!)

"The Church and the Waterbug"

What if the Church (whether local, presbytery, or PCUSA) not only offered grants, lifted up, and shared stories of success for creative and collaborative communities of faith, but also rewarded, lifted up, and shared extraordinary stories of creative risk (and even failure)?  I've heard more than a few groups encourage risk-taking, but might we actually enable creative movements and groups to take the risk and share lessons learned?

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