I’m not sure what exactly prompted the recent conversation at the Morgan household, but the kids started whining about how we as parents aren’t fair. I think it may have been the recent gift we gave one of the kids while the others received nothing.
You may think we’re bad parents for treating our kids differently on different occasions, but we think we’re preparing our kids to leave our house and live in the real world. Life is not fair.
Of course, in church world, I see organizations all the time embracing the “fairness doctrine.” You see it most prominently on display when it comes to communications. Every ministry, regardless of priorities, has information linked to the home page of the church’s website. Every ministry, regardless of priorities, has access to announcement time and the bulletin. Every ministry, regardless of priorities, has their own logo and their own platform. We do that to be fair.
When fairness drives your communications strategy, your least important message has the same weight as your most important message. That leaves people wondering what’s most important. When fairness rules, the communications also become very confusing very fast, because every ministry wants a piece of the action. As ministry leaders, we feel like we’re doing the right thing because all our staff and volunteer leaders feel like they’re being treated fairly, but the people who we’re trying to reach or help take their next steps are left confused and overwhelmed by all our competing messages.
And, by embracing fairness, it will generate competition. Since every ministry has access to every medium, smart leaders will eventually raise the volume of their communications and “get louder” and try to outdo their competition. Then the people we’re trying to reach get bombarded by those competing messages. Of course, the “competition” is their own organization.
Businesses would never embrace the fairness doctrine. At Apple as an example, they have hundreds of products that they’re offering at any one time, but today (and every day) only one product will be featured on their home page. We would never do that in the church, because it wouldn’t be fair to the iMacs and the iPads and the iTunes and the nice people in support who are caring for all the people.
The fact is we embrace fairness because it’s easier and not because it’s most effective. We embrace fairness because the people on the inside have a louder voice than the people we’re trying to reach.
Life is not fair. Just because we’ve embraced that as a value in our churches doesn’t mean we need to continue the tradition.