Adaptive challenges require new ways of processing information and making decisions. Addressing them requires experimentation, innovation, and changes in “attitudes, values and behaviors.” It is vital that these most important and difficult issues be addressed, but too often they are avoided. In Leadership on the Line, Heifetz and Linsky suggest that this avoidance is unavoidable. This is because the church’s system of leadership, policies, theology, and polity may work against discovery or disclosure of such challenges.
Mark Lau Branson and Juan Francisco Martínez also address this point in Churches, Cultures, and Leadership. When speaking of steps leading a church through significant transformation, they write: “This process is not about experts who tell us the truth and solve our problems—it is about leaders who shape an environment and provide resources so a plural leadership becomes normative.”Although PC(USA)’s system of governance is based on checks and balances among pastors, lay leaders, and members, shaping an environment and moving toward plural leadership with respect to problem solving are not readily familiar to church leaders—especially if such approaches to conflict are not the norm in people’s families of origin. More often, when faced with the risks and unknowns of adaptive challenges, leaders and churches instead try additional technical solutions or opt for denial.