The Half Door Drama

So, what’s so dramatic about a half door? Nothing by itself. It’s just a door—or so we thought.

The installation of a half door to my office seemed like an innocent enough decision. I was in charge of the office of a growing church and was the pastor’s secretary. There was a glass wall on one side that made me visible to anyone walking in the hall. That wasn’t a problem.

The problem was the ability of people being able to randomly walk in the open door and stand behind me while I was working on confidential financial information. I was even surprised a couple of times to look up suddenly and see a strange salesman standing in the middle of my office. Not safe.

Maybe more important, people were accustomed to walking past my desk into the pastor’s office to visit because “they were in the neighborhood.” He enjoyed visiting but was struggling to take care of his responsibilities to the whole congregation instead of only a few people. We needed a friendly way to manage the office traffic so that we could get our work done.

Those who work in churches know that there is a delicate balance between the business and the ministry parts. Churches are people-servers who also must take care of business.

The thinking went something like this:  closing the existing door would create too much of a barrier, and people would either knock on it and come in anyway, or they would walk away without having their need met. If we installed a half door, people could still talk to me but it would be an automatic boundary that they would recognize.

What they recognized was completely different than what we had in mind. Suddenly walking up to a partially closed door was a culture change from an open door policy. It didn’t take long to discover who was upset about the new barrier. Most people were a little curious and didn’t care either way, but I soon knew who had been getting into my desk for scissors or tape (and leaving vulnerable the checkbooks and records), and who felt it was their right to be able to walk in whenever they chose.

As the saying goes, the feathers hit the fan, and it took a while to smooth the ruffles.

Looking back, there were several things we could have done to prepare the people for the necessary change in the offices.

We could have let them know ahead of time the reasons for the door being changed. There could have been time for feedback and discussion for clarity.

The door wasn’t the issue; access was. We could have assured them the pastor is available. He is willing to meet with them, and let them know how. The one in particular who was the most upset felt rejected to the point of angry tears. That could have been avoided, or at least minimized.

Change is seldom liked but more easily accepted if people know it is coming, why it’s needed, and most significantly—they are still important.


© Martha Hedge