I’ve been thinking about first principals. What are the primary things that we use to guide us. On highways we have rumble strips to wake us up when we start to run off the road. On a range we have the range markers that keep us from firing outside the range fan. What do we use in life? The easy answer to that, at least for a Christian, is the Bible. For other religions it is whatever the equivalent is for them. But there should be a more involved answer. There ought to be a deeper set of principles, derived from study of Scripture and the experiences of living life and the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, for a community, there should be a set of rumble strips that keep them headed in the direction they originally spent so much time thoughtfully developing and setting out on. In the Army, we guard against what we call mission creep. You set out on one mission with a simple, achievable goal and then the Civil Affairs guys show up and want to ride along to assess the local civilians needs, then the Psyops guys show up and want you to carry their HUMINT guy out with you so he can talk to a source, then the SF guys show up and won’t tell you what they are doing, but if they call on this channel you should come to this location in a hurry to help get their tail out of a crack. Suddenly, your nicely planned mission is hugely complex. A community sets first principals so that it can evaluate new ideas and see how they support and blend with the communities Charism and stated purpose. If an idea is an outlier, it doesn’t mean the community shouldn’t embrace it, but they should embrace it with full understanding of the probable unintended consequences and the secondary and tertiary effects.
In developing a communities first principals, I have come up with some general guidelines.
1. They should re-enforce the idea of a common purpose for the community, a goal big enough to require the efforts of the whole community and specific enough to provide a feedback loop of accomplishment.
2. The goal should lead to something that is self-sustaining. Its great to have a goal to feed the homeless, but much better to feed them while providing them with the psychological and educational opportunities to lift them out of their homelessness.
3. The goals and their development and subsequent evolution must be transparent and the whole community must have complete buy in. It must become OUR goal.
4. It must be intentional and deliberate. Beware mission creep and kill the Good Idea Fairy DEAD!
5. It must re-enforce the sense of community/ inter-relationship/inter-dependence.
What say you?