June 7, 2012

Moving from Purpose to Spirit-Driven Meetings

I was dubious.

The only item on the agenda for our two-day staff retreat: Bible study.

Don't get me wrong. I think Bible study is important. But as a type-a, list-maker, take-action person, I wondered if we would accomplish enough. After all, a two-day meeting is a big commitment of staff time, and all of our to- do lists are lengthy.

We opened with morning prayer, then launched into Bible study.

For the next two hours, our conversation meandered, moving from personal reflection to corporate insights. Still the discussion was varied enough that I couldn't even capture bullet-point notes. I was a little worried. 

But I learned a good lesson. When we root our work in scripture, we create space for the holy spirit

In the last few minutes before lunch, the conversation began to coalesce. An agenda emerged.
Throughout the rest of the day and through the morning, we dug deep into our mission statement, exploring what practices helped live into our mission. We brainstormed, feeding off each other's ideas. We captured thoughts and tangents on poster paper, then we prioritized them, weighing each against the other to see what arose as the most essential.

By the end of the retreat, we had accomplished far more than I expected. And far more, I suspect, than any pre-determined agenda could have sparked. 

There are some good lessons here for the control-freak in me. But also some insight for vestries, commissions, and other groups doing the work of the church. 

What would happen if our vestry retreats didn't have a full list of tasks but rather allowed time for exploration and reflection, based on the word of God? 

I'm not ready to wholesale dismiss task-based agendas. I think a well-formed agenda can help us be good stewards of our time, focusing us on immediate needs. 

But we should always allow space for God to lead us into God's work. Perhaps vestries could experiment: for the next six months, begin meetings with a short Bible study. At the end, assess. How did the Holy Spirit move into our work? How did our discussions change course? Did we reach different decisions with scripture as our foundation than we might otherwise?
What could happen if our meetings were spirit-driven instead of solely purpose-driven?