1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
Origin, late 19th century: from Latin limen, limin- ‘threshold’
The word “liminal” comes from the Latin root limin or threshold. For me, the etymology of this word takes away some of its scariness. I cross thresholds all day every day when I move from the inside of my home to the outside and back. I don’t hang out on the threshold, it is a place of crossing, a place of transition.
Just because we are occupying “liminal” time and space it doesn’t mean we have to passively wait. The actions we take during this punctuated equilibrium, a period of disruption are what creates openness to change."Just because we are occupying “liminal” time and space it doesn’t mean we have to passively wait. The actions we take during this punctuated equilibrium, a period of disruption, are what creates openness to change." Click To Tweet
Four practical ways to engage during liminal times
1. Distinguishing G.O.D. from GOD
People in liminal space tend to view things from one of three perspectives. Asking the question, “what time zone are you in?” surfaces rootedness and guiding principles people may not be able to articulate.
Good old days?
Here and now?
Best is yet to come?
Leaders need to honor all three, otherwise you will lose 2/3 of your people. You can use each time zone to your advantage. For those in the “good old days,” for example, help them identify what it is about those good old days that has them so connected to them. Ask people to name the qualities, themes, attributes, ingredients, characteristics that are meaningful to them. Then catalogue and warehouse them to rekindle them here and now and the future. Redefine “good old days” and retrofit for today – and beware of toxic positivity that idealizes one particular time zone. Get people to name what will endure, that there is comfort, that God exists in all the time zones..
2. Treat Worship as a Threshold
Worship is inherently liminal space. It is a purposeful disruption into our routines that suspends time and space. What might be possible if you were to experiment with online worship to emphasize the gifts of liminality? Remote worship is perfect for building in ways for people to connect to and process the disruption.Worship is inherently liminal space. It is a purposeful disruption into our routines that suspends time and space. What might be possible if you were to experiment with online worship to emphasize the gifts of liminality? Click To Tweet
Here’s one idea – Invite people ahead of time to bring an object of significance to their viewing of worship. As you record, or live stream, allow time for participants at home to share with each other their object and the story about why it has some inherent meaning to them.
3. Name the liminal space
Continually remind people that by simply identifying the threshold there is power. Naming gives choice, and choice empowers.
4. Embrace the paradox of liminal periods
There is both discomfort AND safety in these thresholds. A coach or consultant can increase the safety by holding boundaries so leaders and congregations can experience “freedom within fences” – so “up in the air” will not mean “my tether came loose!”
Reference: Thanks to Rick Simmons and the Harvard Institute of Coaching for the webinar from which these ideas came- https://instituteofcoaching.org/resources/webinar-unleashing-power-liminal-space