When completing my masters of apologetics, it was always a challenge to take the philosophy classes. The arguments seemed extremely nuanced and, to a point, meaningless. They would argue, equivicate, and discuss a tiny detail for hours. It was the proverbial discussion of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. I expect the real problem was that I was hanging out with people far smarter than I, but one thing became clear from the experience: philosophy without action is worthless.
Pregnancy centers around the nation have shown me something much better than unending discussion. They have taken the philoshopies of love, forgiveness, hope and truth and have put them into action. Their undergirding of belief is being worked out daily in a sometimes-messy, real-world environment. PRCs don’t just talk; they take their beliefs and put them into deep and meaningful action. PRCs are philosophers with their work-boots on.
The Wayward Philosopher
Even as we see pregnancy center workers working out their salvation (Phil 2:12), we also are aware of some pitfalls that are too easily stepped into. In our own organization, Heritage House, as well as in pro-life organizations across the nation, these are vital to avoid. As with many things, these pitfalls come from being out of balance. The philosophers I mentioned above were unbalanced between belief and action. In the same way, it is harmful to have action without philosophy. The possible problems listed below all work toward a balance of works and beliefs.
1. Forgetting the Why. As bad as some philosophers can be when they talk without action, it is even worse when an organization has action without philosophy. Knowing the “why” of your PRC, and communicating that CONSTANTLY to your donors, volunteers and employees, is imperative to any organization’s success.
At Heritage House, we have staff meetings weekly where we discuss the why (“To save and change lives”) and the philosophy underneath (“Because God values every person”). We talk about it, believe it, know it and work through it. Every employee knows why they come to work each day and that they are there to support customers like you in your God-given task of saving and changing lives. Our “Why”, as well as yours, is so amazingly powerful that it directly informs and motivates the “How,” which leads us to the second pitfall.
2. Letting the How be Divorced from the Why. Knowing why you do the work you do is hugely important, but that information MUST also guide the “how” of your work. At Heritage House, we audience-test our videos (the how) to know that we are impacting the next generation (the why). We update our literature constantly (the how) so that our centers can trust the information and use it to reach others (the why). We create products filled with empathy and love (the how) so that the clients will hear and apply God’s truth (the why). In your organization, it should be the same. Don’t let actions separate themselves from your underlying philosophy. Know your “why” and then let it bleed into how you reach your goals.
3. Forgetting that the What grows from the Why. In this world of pain and evil, it is easy to look around and see need everywhere. How you respond to this need grows out of your “why.” Do you open a soup kitchen? Or a home for wayward teens? These are hard questions if you don’t have your “Why” understood and communicated. This is true at Heritage House as well. We have recently started offering our parenting DVDs to government organizations; but our “Why” tells us that we create them for your clients first. Our “Pregnancy Loss” or “Healing from Abuse” DVDs offer God as the source of comfort because our “Why” tells us what we do.
4. Overlooking the Source of the Why. Finally, remember that we don’t serve a philosophy, we serve a great and loving God. Out of His character flows correct philosophy, but our object of affection is God Himself. How does this come into play? Simply put, your organization must remember to keep the most important things first.
It is too easy to fall into mechanical processing or skeptical cynicism. Replace this with a love for God, and your organization can take those moments apart and reach the souls of your clients. Again, we teach this and practice this at Heritage House. Our customers, as human beings, are valuable beyond our comprehension, and we work to show them love and respect, even in the midst of busyness.
A Thoughtful Action
These pitfalls may seem obvious to some, may be timely reminders to others, or may just seem meaningless to a few. No matter your thoughts on this, I can tell you with all certainty that your organizational beliefs will find you out. Avoid the warnings that we can observe in our own American universities that began as institutions glorifying God and have turned to railing against the Almighty. These organizations let their “Why” diminish, and the result is both sad and disturbing.
At Heritage House, we work to make God our priority, we strive to live in His forgiveness, and we rejoice that none of what we do makes Him love us any more or less.
Will you take the challenge to emphasize this at your center? Will you examine what you do, and ask if it is informed by your “Why”? Will you point to the source of your “Why” in all ways and in all practices within your centers so there is never any doubt about why you do what you do? If you already do this, then that is awesome! If not, we encourage you to begin doing this now as a key ingredient to your true success.