Perhaps the most common concern expressed by congregants regarding church leadership is the lack of communication. While sometimes it’s merely a convenient answer to the question, “Do you have any concerns?” it’s often true. In our culture of information overload, people increasingly expect to be in the “know.”
Most church leaders are very intentional in communicating with the congregation about what they’re doing: a note in the bulletin, an article in the newsletter, a bulletin insert, a flyer in everyone’s mailboxes, an update at the annual congregational meeting, a regular invitation to call your elder, or perhaps even a personal call from your elder. Some churches hold a periodic “Town Hall Meeting.” But many Councils have tried all of these and still hear concerns about a lack of communication and transparency.
As an STM (Specialized Transition Minister) serving a congregation engaged in renewal, I initiate a monthly “Q&A” (i.e. Question and Answer); so, after a short time of fellowship following morning worship on the first Sunday of every month, members are invited back into the worship center for a Q&A. Attendance is voluntary; there is no agenda; no decisions are made; no discussion is held. But every Q&A offers an inherent promise: “Ask a question—any question—and we will do our best to provide you with a complete and transparent answer. And if we don’t know, we’ll find the answer and get back to you.”
Unlike a typical “town hall meeting,” the Q&A is not an opportunity to debate, challenge or rebuttal an issue or step onto a soapbox and promote one’s personal opinion; it is simply an opportunity to ask questions and receive a clear answer.
Periodically a Q&A begins with a short report or update. We’ve used the Q&A to share the results of our Reveal survey and Listening Labs (small group gatherings to hear feedback from people on significant issues); we’ve introduced a new leadership structure; we’ve explained the process for discerning a significant decision the church is engaging.
Initially, I facilitate and try to answer (as many of) the questions as I can. But Council members, the Renewal Lab team, and staff are usually present so after a few months of Q&A’s, I begin to increasingly defer questions to the appropriate leader. My goal, as a Transitional Pastor, is to ultimately get the Chair of the Council/Consistory to facilitate this gathering.
The questions can vary broadly: “Why was the order of worship removed from the bulletin? How do we know the Renewal Lab isn't going to be just another “program” that ends up on the shelf? Why don't we support this missionary any more? What sport did you play in High School?”
The monthly Q&A lasts as long as there are questions—but no longer than forty-five minutes (we’re often done within a half hour).
At a recent meeting of the Elders, one of them looked at me, smiled and said, “Doug, even after you’re [long] gone, we’ll still be doing these Q&A’s.”