March 16, 2015
Have the two energy-zappers of vestry meetings, Routine and Re-hash, drained your creative juices? Even in the early church, Paul advised church leaders to persevere:
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” - Galatians 6: 9-10 (The Message).
No matter what organizational structure is used, governance/leadership meetings can become boring and frustrating. With some intentional searching, vestries can find resources to enliven discussions and get creative juices flowing with new ideas and enthusiasm. Here are some ideas:
First, look for congregational development books that provide insight-producing discussion questions around some big issue(s) your congregation is facing. There are many excellent publications regarding governance, outreach/mission ministries and stewardship.
One of my favorites is People of the Way; Renewing Episcopal Identity, by Dwight J. Zscheile. What I like most are its discussion questions designed to refresh the routine way of examining effectiveness and approach to mission. Here are some examples from the book:
- “Do you ever feel like Martha in Luke 10, ‘worried and distracted by many things’? What might it mean for you personally and for your congregation communally to focus on ‘the one thing’ that Jesus calls us to do?
- “Think about people you know who don’t participate in church or any faith community. Why do you think they don’t? What can the church learn from them?
- “Have you ever been an outsider to a community? What did it take (or would it take) for you to be welcomed without having to give up your uniqueness?
- ”When have you experienced God’s Spirit alive and moving within your congregation’s life? What about in the neighborhood or in your daily life? Share a story of this.”
The book offers informative insights that explain why these questions, and many others, are meaningful in congregational community. Its discussion questions release idea bubbles that have been unknowingly bottled up in hearts and minds.
Another wonderful idea-packed resource is, of course the Vital Practices web site. And it’s free! I may be preaching to the choir, dear reader, but please don’t overlook using our articles which often include specific how-to-use instructions. Articles at www.ecfvp.org are organized by subject matter. Any time your vestry, stewardship committee or other ministry group needs a boost, try expanding your meetings and your minds with Vital Practices.
A facilitator not affiliated with your congregation is another option for finding a fresh approach to a topic or a planning process, particularly when times are contentious. Look for someone who can demonstrate his/her skill at guiding the conversation to achieve maximum results, whether participants are only Vestry members or as much of the congregation as possible.
People often know someone “who does that kind of thing and might donate his time.” Wonderful! But due diligence is still needed to make sure the person’s expectations for the facilitation/process meets your expectations and needs. For instance, if a day-long strategic planning retreat is desired, ask the prospective facilitator how he/she will craft the day to insure that desired outcomes are achieved. Will he/she provide a written summary of the day?
Don’t let Mr. Routine and Ms. Re-hash let your vestry become “fatigued at doing good.” Find new ways to frame discussions and get those creative juices flowing!
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