When my wife teaches, she often pounds these two questions into the ground.
What were we doing?
Why did we do it?
If here students can answer those, she feels she has helped them take a step toward mastery.
Her questions came to mind reading one of Dan Dick’s latest.
When I travelled as a consultant for congregational revitalization, the number one question I asked was, “Why?” Why do you offer worship? Why do you preach a sermon? Why do you have a Sunday school? Why do you have a worship committee (when the pastor/music director makes all the decisions?) Why do you only have one service? Why do you have more than one service? Why? Why? Why? I always pushed to have people explain the rationale and justification of everything they were doing as a church. Want to know something troubling, though? Most church leaders struggled to answer the “why” question?
At the church I serve, we recently discovered the power of fogotten whys. During Sunday School each week everyone gathers at the end of the hour as we prepare to transition to worship. One thing we do is have anyone who is having a birthday come forward and make a special birthday offering. Then everyone sings “Happy Birthday.”
Okay, harmless enough. I never really questioned it. It seemed like one of those folkways that should be left on its own.
The Sunday of my wife’s birthday, though, she asked why we do that. At first the only answer was that we just do it. But then our oldest member said that the tradition started as a way to supply the flower fund for altar flowers.
The use of live flowers had long since passed out of all memory. Every plant inside the church is plastic. But the tradition continued of its own momentum. It still continues. But now I know why it started. All because my wife came to church with her two questions.
How many other “why” questions have I left unasked? Why?