I got the call in the middle of the afternoon; the classis meeting that was planned for the next day had been postponed. We were under a winter storm advisory and travelling conditions were far too uncertain. The elder who was planning to go with me was relieved. He’d been looking at the forecasts and had concluded that we’d be thinking pretty highly of ourselves if we let the meeting go on as planned. He said that we’d be thinking that our work was of utmost importance.
The decision to call off the meeting was a good one. The next morning major highways in the area were closed. Though postponing a meeting always creates inconveniences, the meeting could be rescheduled for a day when the sun was shining and the snow had stopped blowing. The postponement would be temporary, but the elder’s comment has stayed with me. Do we think of ourselves more highly than we ought?
Some trends suggest that we do question the value of meetings. Though the church order says that classis ought to meet at least three times a year, the church order manual notes a trend towards having two meetings a year. Some classes have moved to evening meetings, suggesting that they are able to accomplish in a few hours what it takes the rest of us all day. Local churches are also trying out different leadership structures. Often, reducing the number of meetings is a main goal of these experiments. No one wants to have people tied up in meetings when they could be engaged in ministry.
I have also heard of churches that have backed away from these experiments. The church I serve is one of them. It might be that we did not give the new structure enough time. It might also be that the structure we tried did not fit the size or culture of our congregation. Those possibilities aside, we found that with fewer meetings, Council members did not feel as connected as they had been before. They did not feel as informed as they needed to be. More concerning, they felt that it took longer for first time council members to become oriented to council and become part of the team. We learned that though no one likes meeting for the sake of meeting, something important happens when people get together.
Postponing a meeting raises questions. Is the meeting necessary? Is there another way of doing what we’d hoped to do at the meeting? Is the purpose of the meeting enough to justify the cost in time and money? These questions are important, but we can also ask another: what do we miss when we do not get together?