All I Learned From Church Is How To Do Administration

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I'll confess, I'm one of those "weirdos" who actually enjoys meetings.  I like gathering with others, discussing ideas, sharing information and figuring out where to go from "here".  Recently I attended my first Strata Council Meeting (a gathering of the owners of the suites in my building).   I was so excited about meeting more of my neighbours and hearing about the "hot topics" that I actually showed up a week early for the meeting!  Whoops!

Attending the meeting was... well... interesting.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't what unfolded.  Though we had an agenda, the chairperson jumped around and went on tangents left, right and centre.  Frankly, it was a tad annoying.  It seemed rather haphazard and  for someone like myself who enjoys order and routine this meeting was mildly frustrating.  I'm certain the chairperson didn't intend it to be like that, it was just his personality, and the way he thinks.  But I sat there, aware that this meeting could be so much better - and I started to think of the ways I would change it.   I mean, I sort of "get" meetings - I've been attending the church ones since I was 14.  Generally I can tell when things are going poorly, when a discussion has extended too long, and when people are ready for a change of topic or a break. 

As I was sitting there, mulling over how I would bring yet another tangent conversation back to the agenda point, a frightening thought crossed my mind.  What if all I've learned from the church gathered is how to run a meeting? My years as a deacon, regular attendance at congregational meetings, the youth group executive, various committees - attending church meetings are how and where I learned to set agendas and write minutes.

A question I didn't want to answer bubbled up: "Have I learned more about how to be a good administrator than I have about how to be a faithful disciple through my congregation?"

Ick. The idea alone repels me.  Surely that's not the case. But some might argue that even our order of worship comes across as an agenda with items to check off! Double Ick!

Committees. Council. Elders. Deacons. Classis. Synod.

Please - tell me we are more than agendas and meetings and minutes and reports and overtures and Robert's rules.  

Tell me that we're a body, community, sojourners, explorers, kingdom agents, disciples of Jesus.

I believe Christ loves the church - this gathering of eclectic people coming together - to praise and worship a living God, to fall down before him, confessing together our brokenness, receiving together the assurance of his pardon.  Eating of the loaf. Drinking of the Cup.  

I believe that the church has the power to show the world what heaven is like - to reveal God, not only as individuals in our "own" lives, but also as a corporate body.  Welcoming strangers as friends, overflowing with love and hospitality, genuinely caring for one another - all while we acknowledge our pain, our brokenness, our humanness. 

I want to encourage you deacons to live and serve beyond the administrative.  I think we can get a little too comfortable in our meetings. They can be insular and safe.  A nice little place to curl up for 3 years and claim that you're busy "serving".  We are called to more than running "good" meetings. We are called to be light in the darkness. We are called to make disciples.

We are called.

How are you - as an individual, as a deacon or as a deacon team - living out your call?

 

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Having experienced various church settings and experiences, your comments make me wonder about the relevance of coming to meetings, whether deacons, elders, sunday school planning, building, bible studies, etc., without our bibles in hand, and what that says about where our focus is.   Is that a symbol of our calling? 

Several observations on meetings:

1. All meetings adhere to a detailed agenda.

2. Any meeting over an hour in length is wasting the time of participants. At an hour and a half, it turns toxic. We have no gift more precious than our time. To allow others to waste it is an abrogation of our responsibility to our Lord and we, not them, will be held accountable.

3. Any decision to be made must be on the agenda and all the information necessary to make that decision must be in the hands of the participants a week in advance. That way questions are focused, discussions are precise and decisions are made without emotional pleas, power plays or meandering "what if" brainstorming. In an issue is complex, assign it to a committee of 3 members to come back to the larger body with a recommendation that has been thought through and can be voted on. If an item is not clearly stated or is not on the agenda, hold it to the next meeting and be sure that everyone knows the reason.

4. Start every meeting precisely on time. To do otherwise, wastes the time of those who are conscientious and rewards those who are late.

5. And yes, John, in addition to making all the necessary decisions, we, as elders, reflect on a bible passage, spend time in prayer and take 15 minutes for a lesson from the "Handbook for Elders" and still never exceed an hour and a half.

6. Finally, we all go home with the feeling of accomplishment, a job well done for our Lord and his body.

 

I always enjoy and appreciate Melissa as I watch her and benefit from her work in "my" congregation. I expect great things from her as she continues to gather experience and her leadership is recognized more and more. Melissa, I have been on both "sides." Currently I am more on the receiving end than the leadership end and can tell you that those "things" you fear are missing or sidetracked are there, though never fully.  If in your experience these "things" are endangered in your own life and heart, then perhaps you ought to take a break and just be a prayerful "pew-er" for a while. Although, I guarantee you that it will make you itchy to get back into the fray, for God has made you into an effective leader. I personally know what it does to a God-gifted leader to be prevented from exercising those gifts. Having them suppressed takes a serious toll. 

Thanks Melissa for your encouraging words!