Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sigh....

Meetings on Monday night were not fun. I don't know when that last time I came home from meetings absolutely discouraged - but it's not fun. That's not to say that nothing good happened though, so I'll start with that.

Our treasurer said that giving has been down since we sold off our old Office Building. I pretty much expected this - but the drop-off was significant. Basically people think that we have "all this money" now and have lowered their giving thinking we can live off it. That sounds like bad news, right? It's actually not. Like I said, I expected the drop-off in giving and we'll deal with that - but the way that our treasurer responded to this drop-off is wonderful. He gave us his report, said we'd hit a low in giving since he'd started the position and summed it up by saying, "So, what I think we need to do is spend money - we've got it, we've said we had ideas for it, let's let people know that this money isn't there to live off of, it's there to be used." Amen! He didn't want to hoard it for a rainy day, or cut-corners on giving the money designated as mission-giving or on projects we envision doing, he wants to use the money the best ways that we can for the Church. And folks nodded in agreement. That made me happy.

The other good thing was that my computer upgrade plan was accepted without any negative reactions. Folks liked how upgrade costs were staggered over several budget years, and people seemed to think that having me provide my own computer was a pretty silly idea. I hope I can get that macbook soon. We'll know for sure how that goes after the budget meetings.

Now for the stuff that was discouraging - without going into specifics (as I need to personally deal with this). To sum it up, what I thought was five or six "sideline-complainers" is actually four (which is encouraging). The bad news is that they've found another mouth-piece in a leadership position and it's stirring up all the old passive-aggressive 3rd and 4th party complaining because "well, people have a right to be heard." One was at least missionally-driven (even if I think it's conclusion misguided there's room for discussion and movement on the part of the ministry of the Church - that's a good thing), I don't think that missional point was handled well - but people have to be trained in that. At worst the other complaint can be labeled "petty," at best it can be labeled, "subjective what I want-ism." Again, no specifics - but it seems that the old systems are trying to exert control again, and as long as we are allowing people who are standing in the shadows work through a 3rd party we're not going to be free to move forward. I knew this would happen eventually - but I was hoping to get through Designed In Mission (was, "Structure through Mission") before that struggle really started. Oh well, deep breath - and move on.

I think what keeps this congregation tied to this system is the notion that we're somehow a democracy. In a democracy (at least, in theory) everyone's opinion is given equal footing, and a vote is taken to see what the will of the people is. Churches, on the other hand, aren't supposed to give equal weight to every opinion (some, like open hostility to evangelism or not caring if Jesus is fully-human/fully-divine are just wrong for a church to communicate). When congregations take a vote they are not checking to see the "will of the people," they are trying to discern the will of God. It's a huge difference - and one that's not understood.

3 comments:

Dr. Qohelet said...

The problem is, church votes seem a lot like town hall votes, which are similar to state legislature votes which are akin to federal votes.

Personally, I think moving away from the mob rule of the majority to a consensus model where folks lay down their right to disagree for the greater good of the Church is a much better system.

But... I'm crazy that way...

wezlo said...

Or, hey, how about simultaneously holding leaders accountable to the ministry they said they do/exemplify and give them the freedom to come up with a consensus without having to constantly run back and ask permission.

I mean, wouldn't it be nice if churches said, "We commissioned you to this ministry with these specific boundaries (personal, spiritual, and practical) - as long as you're staying in those we trust you to do this ministry. Tell us what you're doing so we can be part of it, but you don't have to keep asking permission all the time. We already gave that when we commissioned you."

But hey.....I'm a bit of an idealist that way.

Melanie said...

A thought on the back seat disenters. Perhaps we should try to discourage the use of a medium to voice complaints. Perhaps we should encourage anyone with an opinion to show up to meetings and voice their own opinions as uposed to telling the commitee member that supports them. This could get rid of the people that like to hide in the corners and just pass down their ideas. It takes more guts to stand up and say your opinion instead of hiding in the corner.

Though, this doesn't solve the "democracy" issue. And I fully realize it will probably open things up for more problems.

I agree that our leaders need to be given space to lead. Otherwise what's the point in designating a leader? But, since we don't want to discourage anyone who does have a good idea (some of the corner people on a rare occasion do after all) we might try to find a way to encourage positive input in some way.

Or perhaps I'm giving people too much credit again....