How Do You Keep Peace in the Council Room?

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A question was asked on the “Elder Blog” concerning the practice of “Mutual Censure”.  How is it being done in your council (if it is being done at all).  I think it is a good question.  The Church Order requires it, but I have a suspicion (based on my own experience) that it is not done regularly or at all in many churches.  I do think it is a good practice because it gives the opportunity to discuss how well each member and even as a group the council is performing its duties according to the Church Order.  It is a time, I would suggest, that each council member review the obligations of the office of elder and deacon and evaluate it according to the description given at the time of their ordination as well as a review of their task according to the church order. 

But a second reason it is a good concept is because if done regularly, it prevents small issues from becoming large issues.  In my years as pastor I have discovered that in any relationship whether it be family matters, marriage,  business, or church  that small issues when unresolved can become large issues simply because the conduct that caused the issue was repeated over and over again and simply by that repetitious behavior the issue becomes major.  I mean if you make a mistake and someone is offended by it and you immediately discuss it and say you are sorry and you will not allow it to happen again, the issue usually is resolved and you move on in the relationship.  But when someone makes that statement, “You always do that”, you know the issue has grown out of proportion even if you do not “always do that”. 

In a Council meeting if someone has an issue the sooner it is placed on the table, discussed and resolved the better future council meeting will be.  It prevents council members seeing each other from a bias perspective.  It can happen that a council member listening to another council member does not take the person seriously and makes the comment, “O well there goes Harry (fill in the name) again”.   That demonstrates a problem and one that should be resolved if each member of the council is to be taken seriously.

So I would suggest that “Mutual Censure” held four times a year as written in Article 36 of the Church Order is still relevant and should be adhered to in some form by every church council.

What do you think?  If you practice “Mutual Censure” how is it done and how beneficial has it been?

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Good blog Al. We may not like dealing with "the elephant in the room" but the sooner the better.

Mutual comments to each other in the council room ought to include thanks to God for the work that others are doing.   Yes, sometimes there are things lacking, things undone, words that should not have been said, wrong attitudes portrayed, but, God still also uses the faith and work of those who honestly strive to serve him.  The prayers, visits, leadership, and support of council members for the work of God's people should also be appreciated.  Elders and deacons including pastors then ought to be eager to hear what can be improved, or how they can build on their gifts, and use the opportunities provided to them by God.  In that spirit, the point is not mainly one of censure, but one of growth, of learning the will of God in their lives.  In that way, it is God's name that will be praised! 

I agree with your position on Mutual Censure and would Pray that church councils would also.

I gave copies of your post to my council. I pray they take it as help and with understanding. I'll find out tonight.

 

Thanks, Ron

These are the three questions that we are currently using for mutual censure:

 

1. In your opinion, are the office-bearers of our church carrying out their duties to the best of their abilities?

2. In your opinion, are the various programs and ministries of our church being maintained faithfully, and is the church fulfilling the Great Commission through them?

3. Do you have any ideas about how our church ministies or church leadership can be encouraged or developed?

These are put in the agenda which is sent out a few days in advance, and we go around the room at the end of a meeting prior to communion (6x a year) asking each officebearer to answer the questions.  As John notes, it can be a great time not only for correction but also for encouragement.

Jeff, If you don't mind, I would like to use these same three questions on our agenda as part of our mutual censure as well. Would that be ok?

Thanks!
Todd Huizingh
3rd CRC Zeeland 

No problem, Todd, that would be fine.  We've found it allows for discussion that's both respectful and honest.