Rocket Scientists

Years ago I heard a story about a pastor who was ready to quit after just a few months at his new church. Every decision he made, every item in business meetings, and every issue in church council meetings was being questioned in detail. The lay leaders wanted to know every answer before they gave their approval. And the pastor didn’t have every answer –he knew that some answers would only come “somewhere down the road” and that wasn’t good enough for many of his key leaders. He was frustrated to the point of quitting and he expressed this to the monthly gathering of local pastors, a group with whom he could share his feelings and problems.

Some of them laughed at him which he didn’t appreciate. They asked him where these lay leaders worked who were “causing this trouble.” “At NASA, of course, and they are all rocket scientists,” was his answer. This was a “company town” in that the major employer in the county was NASA and yes, the lay leaders of every church in that city were, quite literally, rocket scientists.

Rocket scientists are a special breed of engineers. Engineers study the heck out of everything – they want to know the answer to problem and potential problem before they embark on actually carrying it out. Rocket scientists take it one step further because they know that they never get a “do over.” If something breaks in a factory, the engineer can go in with a team, find a solution, and fix the problem. That is usually not an option for rocket scientists – they’ve got to know and prevent every single problem that might even remotely happen before they even build the rocket. That is a phenomenal amount of planning. These rocket scientists were merely taking their training to their church’s finance, personnel, deacons’, and church council meetings. And the new pastor didn’t understand the background of his leaders.

After his colleagues helped him understand the dynamics of working in that city, the pastor had a long tenure there. He helped the leaders understand that in church work, you don’t know all the problems before you embark on a project and you certainly don’t have to have all the answers ahead of time. The leaders helped to pastor to be more organized in planning and assessing the failure or success of an activity. In short, they helped each other as they were making decisions.

The lesson for leaders is to understand who they are working with and the backgrounds each one brings to the table. Everyone has different gifts and those can be a huge asset to the organization if they are used correctly (or damaging if used improperly). Get to know your people and use their skills for the Kingdom.

(FYI: I’ve heard this story is true and attributed to a specific church but without confirmation, I prefer to leave it more as a parable than fact.)

Lead On!