Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Redemption For Church Boards Possible?

When I work with leadership groups in congregations, I am often in awe of their individual stories. I learn about all kinds of vocation. Mothers with an artistic flair, health care workers who help cure disease and play saxophone, soldiers who give their passion and leadership in between deployments, dead-eye shot farmers, trucker theologians, ice-water veined CEOs, insightful entrepreneurs. God gives them the gifts to do these amazing things. They love God. They love their church. They do whatever they can to help the church to do good ministry.

At least 90% of them cannot state why they are serving in their particular position in church.

It's hard for me to imagine how such talented people with such a strong sense of purpose in other areas of their lives settle for such meandering when it comes to the direction of the church.

Maybe it's because making a decision cuts off other possibilities, possibilities that may hurt another human being, and that's not Christian. Maybe.

Congregations often can't decide what their board should be--a representative group or a leadership group. For the life of me, I can't figure out a good reason why a church board needs more people present (this doesn't mean I am against public meetings, only meetings where so many are required to attend). As if more people in the bureaucracy means more frequent and faithful ministry. I believe a church board is best served with five people (seven at the most), with energy directed toward being transparent about ideas and decisions, rather than creating more structure. Yet, time after time, I find boards with 13, 15, 17, 20+ people on them (probably related to a representation understanding). The meetings are frequent, long and arduous. People serve them out of a sense of duty (which is not a bad thing), but it is misplaced energy. People are busy. Regular, frequent meetings might have been a way to bring people together in the past, but that train already departed. If the goal is fellowship and contact, don't facilitate the gathering under the guise of a business meeting, go for fellowship.

I remember in my early years of ministry, there was a movement to make church boards into small spiritual communities. In some ways, that trend was like putting pearls on a pig. The idea did not address the underlying problem. The structure of the church was not serving joyful ministry. The members ended up serving the structure of the church. Joy departed. Fatigue and discouragement spread. I remember an alert about the pitfalls of building up church boards as opposed to congregational ministry and discipleship, which began my search to convert the countless hours I spent attending time wasting meetings and missing opportunities to spend evening time with my family.

Jesus once said that Sabbath was made for humankind, not the other way around (Mark 2: 23-28). Congregations place too much energy in serving their structures. Serving structures makes the congregation more susceptible to power plays. Congregations may find more joy if they find their joy in ministry as opposed to bureaucratic wrangling. Once congregations can claim where they find joy in ministry, then they can determine what kind of structure their congregation needs.

I find new light when I find a congregation with the courage to find their joy in serving God and release themselves from serving a structure. Jesus did not say that Sabbath was bad, and that is was good when it served abundant life, rather than as a weapon for the powerful. Structure for a church is not bad, but it easily become an idol, and a despised one at that.

What do you see in your congregational boards?

No comments:

Post a Comment