What do you want?

I’ve been working on an internal website at work lately, so I’m learning new things in web development standards. There exists a concept of specificity, where styling placed in different ways takes precdence over inherited characteristics. In engineering, specificity comes into play in the area of standardization and customization. Should we apply a rule of thumb across the board or redesign it to the very specific requirements of this project or problem? In so choosing, you manage the level of overhead and rework required when approaching a problem with varying degrees of success, some of which compete directly with others. With respect to the websites, some styling should cascade across the entire property, like fonts and headers, but some pages are special and get unique styling. Hence, you have trade-offs between opposing demands. Part of the struggle in problem solving is discovering all the competing scales that you must balance.

Once you find out what those scales are, you learn how important are the results of either end of the spectrum. In school, you usually receive a syllabus that tells you what the weighting of the exams and assignments are. In organizations, there are always rock star groups or individuals who make the most money or the most impact, and without them, the wheels fall off the bus. You learn what you can depend on and what you can’t, who you can trust and who is a terrible person. You discover when you’re walking on thin ice and when competitors don’t have a leg to stand on. Complex problems are a burden, and delegating tasks is a weight off your shoulders. Once you learn what the different scales are, you learn the weight of the results in where you land.

Where does that take us?

In solving a problem, you take all of these steps into account. Goal, competing factors, and weight. When you have a specific problem, people may not know the competing factors you’re facing, let alone the weight of the problem and its effects. Beyond that, they have no skin in the game, so they suggest solutions that have less consideration of the cost of their solutions and what the impact will be on you. It probably works better for their interests or preferences than it does for yours. On the more positive side, we have First World Problems, where comfort is always out of reach and sympathy from others is in short supply.

Carrie and I have what appears to be a specific problem: why don’t we go to the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church?

Carrie and I stopped going to the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church in June 2013 and switched to Southview Alliance Church in the SW. We went for about fifteen months and tried to provide an English ministry to support the young adults. CVAC was renting a room at First Alliance Church but has since resumed occupancy of a lesser building in Forest Lawn.

What do we want? We want to follow Jesus.

What are some of the competing factors we’re facing? On the one hand:


  • We’ve gone to the Vietnamese Alliance Church our whole lives. Why not continue the tradition?
  • The need for leadership is great. Why aren’t you helping out?
  • We’re Vietnamese.
  • We used to go there.
  • We’re related to some people that still go. Namely, parents.
  • My dad worked there for a bit.
  • It’s closer to where we live.
  • We used to go there.

On the other hand (and in no particular order):

  • The church hasn’t been an easy place to grow spiritually as an English speaker. Naturally, the Vietnamese immigrants want to create a church based on their own goals, one of which is to foster/preserve the Vietnamese culture. While that’s a worthy pursuit, at times it’s to the exclusion of the English-prone congregants. There is competition for teaching resources, and providing for the English service simply isn’t a priority.
  • We’ve tried before, and it’s a demanding environment to volunteer in.
  • The church decided to move somewhere without youth groups and English services. Not only does this remove our ability to worship together, but now the Vietnamese-speaking folks have to spend time taking care of the children. While a necessary investment, but in this specific case, maybe the finances worked better at First Alliance where everyone could focus simply on following Jesus closer through the provided services and ministries.
  • Have you heard the preaching at Southview Alliance Church? It’s in English, and it’s amazing.
  • Have you worshiped at Southview? The music is amazing and also in English.
  • We’ve been overcommitting to church for a number of years. Four days a week is too much for a volunteer. In general, I find when you force something for so long, your soul rejects it for an equal amount of time. I spent a good 13 years memorizing music for piano, and despite my great love and appreciation for music and the instrument, I simply cannot spend any more lifeforce repeating passages for hours until I memorize them. Similarly, the pendulum is swinging the other way in my spiritual life, and I just need to be able to not spend half my week doing church-related activities. I should probably even be committing more than just one evening as it is, but pendulum swing. One day, we will get back to a normal and healthy level.
  • Carrie’s busier now because of school. The CVAC English Ministry was doing well before she enrolled in distant learning, and Crystal was promoted to being a manager shortly before we decided to disband. We didn’t stop the English Ministry because we were displeased with a church decision. We just couldn’t logistically sustain a small group anymore, and no one stepped up to take over. Shortly thereafter, we changed church locations because of an agreement at the board level to transition back to the old building in Forest Lawn, which obviously meant no more services en Anglais.
    • It should be mentioned that the District wanted to sell the Forego Avenue building because operating and maintenance costs were becoming prohibitive, transit access was poor, and expansion would be too costly. Never mind the lack of resources to provide an equal level of service compared to First Alliance.
    • First Alliance was too far for some. Everyone gets to work somehow, but going to church is too inconvenient. Welcome to Calgary, where everything is far.
    • Southview is about as far from our place as First Alliance is.
  • We could attend one service on Saturday for ourselves and then attend the Sunday one to help out. This is a potential solution were it not for the other points weighing us down.
    • One thing I don’t like about this one is that it insulates the Vietnamese to the problem of their children’s faith and taking ownership of it. At least at First Alliance, they were paying for access to the services through the arguably unrealistically high rent being charged. Tough love, I guess.
    • This has been done before, but this isn’t a solution that should be launched on a person not volunteering to take on the extra burden. Can I sign you up for 10 hours of volunteering a week simply because I think you can fit it into your schedule?
    • There is nothing new about this approach. The problem isn’t so much that the help isn’t there or of sufficient quality, but the support from the Vietnamese Church isn’t adequate to sustain a long term and robust ministry. I’m talking paid staff here. The problem is that they don’t think it’s a problem worth investing money and time to solve.
    • It has also been suggested that we attend Southview but give our tithes to CVAC. That’s not cool because we support the people that support us. Suppose we just give all of our tithes to a different church. Why tithe at all? We could give that money to another charity because apparently the church you attend doesn’t need our financial support.
  • Most importantly, we can’t get closer access to Jesus at CVAC. We can at Southview. Walking with Christ is hard enough without having to elbow your way through for sustenance at the Lord’s table. (English bread? muffins? (As long as it’s unleavened.))

That is our specific problem, and our goal is to follow Jesus closer every day. Our solution is to continue to go to Southview and not serve at CVAC. Have we been successful so far?


Christian. Audio. Technology. Go-Getter. Concise.

Posted in Changed My Life, Huh, Successful Living