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Form or Function

Form or Function?Today I had the privilege of beginning a year long journey with a group of individuals who are as crazy as I am… people who appreciate, care about and genuinely love teenagers. As you may be able to imagine, whenever like-minded folks get together, much of the conversation is focused on what we are doing and how we are doing it. I’m not sure if this is a systemic issue, or a preoccupation that is a societal trend, but we as humans seem to be fascinated with form.

Think about it for a moment. We celebrate (and even idolize) the human form in a variety of ways: athletic achievements, intellectual pursuits, spiritual habits and physical changes and/or developments. Somehow we seem to believe that the form is the pinacle of excellence…but perhaps the opposite might be true?

When I think of function I think of purpose. I make a lot of different choices based on this principle. I use certain technology because of its’ functionality. I wear certain clothing, not because of how it looks, but because of what it provides… a covering. Merely a function.

I consume from specific venues due to the functionality or purpose they provide me with, not necessarily due to the form in which the function is provided.

But yet when it comes to something like ministry or parenting we often seem drawn to the tendency to copy the form without giving greater concern to the function. For example, we may admire the way a family’s children have turned out. And as a result then adopt their parenting style (form) in order to provide us with our desired function.

Sports teams are notorious for this type of behavior. If one team ends up with the grand prize for it’s league, other teams begin attempting to copy the “blueprint” (form) of their success in order to replicate the function.

Yet I wonder if embracing form over function leads to a devaluing of the outcome the form provides and an elevation of the form itself? Instead of valuing the nutrition a meal provides we may be more concerned with how it was prepared or developed. We may celebrate a certain style of music ahead of all others not because of the function that it provides but because it is our preferred style or form.

Does embracing form over function really mean that we are making a statement of preference and that our preference becomes more important than its function? Or does the elevation of form over function erode much needed elements of creativity, flexibility and adaptability of the form itself?

Form or function.

Both are important, but perhaps determining the desired function should be the starting point of the discussion instead of celebrating the function’s form.

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1 thought on “Form or Function

  1. Love the post bro. I think it’s our obsession with doing, doing, doing…the practical side of ministry. Which is totally important, and needed (without any sort of form you don’t have much to work with…even a simple reading of a Scripture verse is a “form”).

    The problem is exactly what you were saying…if we lean too much into the structure of how, what, when, etc. we’re doing things…we lose the ability to be creative, flexible, and adaptable (and hence our students learn a mechanism instead of experiencing the Incarnational Christ).

    We need to spend more and more time asking ourselves “why do we do what we do…what’s our motivation?” and “what’s the purpose or goal…what do we value?” and ask our families the same thing. That’s the heart of things, not the program form… Form needs to serve function, not be a god unto itself.

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