My unscientific poll of churches suggests the vast of majority of us—church workers and volunteers alike—consider church meetings more obligation than joy. There are many reasons to blame, but frequently I field concerns over the need to address two issues: volunteer commitment and simplified church governance. You can read more about developing volunteers here. Now, let’s look at governance.
Governance is a man-made tool to serve us. Perhaps a better metaphor might be a carpenter’s workbench. Governance provides an orderly way to hang your tools. These are the gifts of God in the Gospel and His people. It is the “work area” and boundaries from which churches creatively fashion expressions of the Gospel. Below are three simple steps inspired by Ephesians 4 that can help any church address governance issues without a constitutional convention.
1. Love meeting together, not meetings.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling…bearing with one another in love…” –Eph 4:2
Build loving relationships in governing groups. Prepare simple agendas. Always refresh one another with the Word of God. Do more than read written reports out loud—respect each other’s time. Identify a limited number of tasks you can accomplish together in a timely way. Extend trust to the participants by delegating responsibilities without micromanaging. Don’t leave without a timeline for your tasks. Provide an environment that sets people up for success. Avoid long discussions over problems you can’t solve. Pray for one another. Let love govern!
2. Dust off your workbench and organize your tools.
“When each part is working properly, [Christ] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. –Eph 4:16
I find that frustration with church meetings and governance often isn’t a governance problem at all. It’s a cluttered workbench than needs attention. When churches ask me to help them rewrite their Constitution and Bylaws, I first suggest they dust of those old documents and evaluate what they are doing. Generally, church constitutions offer more flexibility to arrange the tools on the workbench than perceived. Rather than a complete overhaul of governance that will take many months and a lot of dreaded meetings, dust off the documents. Look for the “unwritten rules” that have become burdensome in your church. Identify places where written policies can support the existing governing structures. Address and humbly confess to one another the places where temptations—such as power struggles, apathy, idols of achievement or property—have hurt the Body. Repent. Forgive. Recommit to a consistent study of God’s Word. Govern with a Spirit which builds build one another up in love.
3. Propose changes that simplify
“[Let talk be] such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Eph 4:29
After you tidied up your workbench, undoubtedly you will see some tools that don’t fit well. When love prevails and your workbench is organized, talk about change can be a breath of fresh air and grace. Most often, structural changes that will simplify your governance can be addressed through your church Bylaws rather than the Constitution. Examine sections that create and define program boards and committees of the congregation. These may be places for you to have a congregational conversation that fits the occasion.
You don’t need to dread church meetings. The Missouri District desires to support congregations and bring joy and effectiveness into your ministry. You can contact Bill Geis at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 590-6205 for assistance with your unique ministry needs.