First, SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR THIS WEEKEND!
To chat with someone is to talk in a relaxed, informal way, and I imagine that most of our conversations in life fall under the heading of a chat than of a formal, extended discussion. We really get to know someone through our casual, unguarded words, as much as through formal dialogue.
A couple of years ago it occurred to a few of us that our congregational business meetings were not providing a good opportunity for the members of the church to speak their minds, hear one another’s ideas and feelings, and continue to relate and live together as a community of God’s people—despite our many differences. In our meetings we were conducting business—hence the title of the event, Congregational Business Meeting. We followed Parliamentary Procedure, recognized the chair, the floor, motions, counter-motions, seconds, amendments, yeas and nays. In short, while we did accomplish the goal of getting business done, such as budget approval, ministry reports, etc., we did not accomplish other, perhaps even more important, objectives: we were not growing closer as a congregations, frequently not speaking with kindness and humility, and were not expressing love towards each other as we felt we should. So, while we still have a yearly business meeting to formally address the business needs of the church, we’ve held regular Congregational Chats for the last couple of years.
At a Congregational Chat anything goes, as far as topics of conversation. We’ve spontaneously discussed issues of music, relating to our friends who are living on the streets, what food to serve at our meals and after-church coffee hours, the structure and roles of the elder team, what I preach and why I preach certain things, how we care for our building, what we do with our money, and what dreams we may dare to have for the future of our church, why I and the elder team make some of the decision that we make, etc. The meetings are held about 10 minutes after the close of our worship service, are moderated by one of the elders, and last about 30-45 minutes. People come and go as they please, and all are invited—members, non-members, visitors, etc. There are only a couple of policies that we faithfully observe:
1. NO church business will be conducted at our meetings. By church business I mean, no big money issues, budget decisions, etc. The chat is a time to hear what your fellow church members really think and feel about our church—not a time to lobby or argue for your opinions and desires. No votes are taken, of course. (We address formal church business (requiring votes and such) at Congregational Business Meetings.)
2. We are mutually committed to listening to one another, and speaking with kindness and patience towards each other. The Chat is meant to be an opportunity for the members of our church to learn how to communicate with one another the way Christians should communicate. We don’t talk over or around each other, but TO each other, respectfully and with great kindness and (we hope) genuine humility.
This Sunday we’ll have a Congregational Chat following our service. I’m hoping to discuss with you my plans for the next few weeks (I’m travelling to Greece and Italy for a study tour with Western Seminary relating to my studies there, and then Sharon is joining me after the study portion for some relaxing-travel time!) I also want to give Pastor Keane an opportunity to share with the congregation how the Lord is leading him and Milena in the direction of starting a new church in East County.
All are invited, please grab a cup of coffee and a cookie and stick around—and do bring your questions, comments, thoughts to share! Anything goes!
Blessings, Pastor Ken
PS. SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR THIS WEEKEND!