Charity sector · Christian

Being not doing

I’m enjoying spending time on sabbatical  maternity leave reading, ruminating and reflecting. I’ve had time to talk, to be, to learn and to dream.

Having read some of this blogpost about Understanding Voluntary Organizations by Charles Handy, I bought my own copy. My bookmark is on p.33 so I still have some way to go but already I love this book. It gives words and a framework to feelings and frustrations I have had for many years (I’ve worked in the charitable sector either as a volunteer or as a paid member of staff for about fifteen years).

Handy outline three ‘perils’ of voluntary organisations:

  1. Strategic delinquency – having a ’cause’ but no clear goals or objectives. Therefore no definition of success (or failure).
  2. Servant syndrome – a ‘make do and mend’ approach, with lack of investment and a culture of built-in inefficiency. A constant need to always say yes and respond to every problem and need.
  3. Ideological fanaticism – rejection of ‘success’, structures, professionalism and leadership.

In summary, he outlines the need for good management and strategic leadership. I can see myself carrying this book in my bag as a handy reference (little pun there for you!) for many years!

I wonder if these three perils are accentuated in Christian organisations? There is often already a tendency towards having a cause (‘the poor’) and a struggle to say ‘no’ as this could be seen as unloving or ‘unChristian’.

At the same time, I am reading Rhythms of Grace: Finding intimacy with God in a busy life by Tony Horsfall which follows on so well from my reading of The Perfectionism Book.

‘While many Christians claim to believe in the sovereignty of God, in practice most believe that everything depends on them.’

‘It is certainly possible to be doing far more than God ever requires of us.’

‘Prayer itself is seen as work.’

Maybe as well as needing strategic leadership and excellent management, social action also involves contemplative prayer. This may seem unnatural to an activist or even a waste of time but look:

Punctuation is a helpful way of thinking about Jesus’ relationship with silence and solitude …His times alone were the commas, pauses and full stops in the story of life. They gave the rest of his life its structure, direction and balance. His words and his works were born out of those hours of silent waiting upon God.‘ (David Runcorn quoted in Rhythms of Grace)

Jesus spent time alone with the Father. Just being. Not doing. 

His presence will go with me, and He will give me rest. He will go with you. He will give you rest.

He will guide me always; He will satisfy my needs in a sun-scorched land; He will strengthen my frame. 

He will always guide you. He will satisfy your needs. He will strengthen you.

Come to me, rest in my presence, hear my voice and words of love for you. You don’t need to work to gain my approval. You are my son, my child.




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