the tragedy of the commons

Chicago bus tour traffic jam (edge)-0626.jpg

I only remember one thing from my Psych class in college.  It is this concept called the tragedy of the commons.
It basically speaks to a herd mentality that happens when I assume that my little contribution won’t matter; that I look out for my own self interests at the expense of the whole.  An example would be, I don’t take public transportation because it is kind of a hassle and the exhaust from my one car can’t really make that much difference, so I’ll keep driving myself.

I have been in a couple of all day meetings this week and it has gotten me thinking about how this concept applies in our churches, our volunteers, our staff teams, etc.  During a few lulls in these meetings, I was reflecting on what my own team would look like if we had the interests of the church above our own; if the production team’s interests where those of the church’s.

Instead, what can tend to happen is that everyone is scratching for their own ministry’s interests, looking out for what’s best for them, some times to the determent of the whole church.  Whether this is in the budget process or decisions being made about an event based on what’s best for production, the tragedy of the commons probably happens more often in our churches that I feel comfortable admitting.

I’m not saying that I have needs and concerns and that what matters to the production team isn’t important.  What I am saying is that it is easy to put my own team’s interests above the interests of my church, which in the long run will be destructive.  In the past I have seen less than ideal decisions being made for the sake of what’s easiest for production.  I hear about them happening at your church too.

I know that God will work in your church and my church when and if he wants to.  But how much more if it is full of people and ministries that are working together, towards a common cause and a common goal.  We need to stop thinking only about what matters to us as the most important thing out there and focus on what’s best for our church.

I realize that I have butchered the idea of the tragedy of the commons, but at the foundation of what we are about as production people, let’s not just be looking out for our own interests first, but our interests in light of what the whole church needs.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Ruth Flickr