When church boards encounter crises of varying degrees increases in anxiety are expected. Unfortunately, church boards, like many systems, often seek to eliminate or neutralize this anxiety as quickly and painlessly as possible. This quick reaction often leads churches to return to "tried and true" solutions even when they failed in the past or are inappropriate for the present circumstances, look for the "least common denominator" in an effort to keep everybody happy, abandon ministries, outreach opportunities or values that they hold dear, or settle on the easiest direction instead of creatively seeking a more effective solution.
While there are a myriad of possibilities to address this problem, play offers some unique opportunities. By learning how to play, church boards can reduce the immediacy of the anxiety they experience, learn to live with their anxiety long enough to seek creative solutions, begin to accept differences as a part of being "community" and healthy solution finding, and learn to understand that failure is an integral part of faithful living.
In order to explore this hypothesis, this project chronicles the experience of one church's administrative board as it experiments with play in different forms over a three month period. In addition to playing traditional games during their meetings, members of the board were exposed to a sense of "playfulness" during their business discussions and participated in short educational workshops relevant to the thesis.
The church participating in this project is a midsized mainline congregation of approximately 500 members from a small town in New England. It represents a community that is largely Caucasian and could be described as middle-income. The community is formerly agricultural-based, but now also includes many business professionals.
At the conclusion of the project, it appeared that play did, in fact, have the desired results within the church's administrative board. In addition to reducing anxiety, increasing creativity, accepting differences of opinion, and redefining "failure", there was also evidence that play helped deepen interpersonal relationships and perhaps participant's relationships with God. Even in three short months, experiences of play began to change the church board's efficiency and effectiveness.