A total note to self for my next appointment. I had a great meeting with the Lay Leadership Team today to reorganize and brainstorm. I was very underprepared and not especially optimistic. As usual, the outcome was not what I expected. Maybe that means it’s not all about me…
In the fall, I suggested that my Lay Leadership/Nominating Team become something different. It was a team that met annually to nominate people for leadership positions, mostly, and we reimagined it as a team meeting at least quarterly in a retreat type setting to better assess the gifts of the congregation, network and follow up with people, organize events and programs, and generally be better able to get people involved in the ministries that excite them.
So, our retreat was this morning from 9-12. Well, it was scheduled from 9-12. We went until 1.
Notes for next time: the initial retreat needs to be four hours, not three. Also, it needs to not be the week before Easter.
Working mostly from a just-before-bed brainstorm of notes, I opened with readings from Acts 2 and 4 about the early church and then a prayer. Then, I asked each person to share why they were involved with leadership in the church. This turns out to have been the best of the ideas I had, and the reason the meeting took an extra hour. They each shared a lot. There were tears and laughter and inspiration and brainstorming already happening. There were similarities and important themes in their stories (importance of the church in their childhood, wanting the church to be vibrant for their kids, loving being involved, feeling empowered to give of themselves). I made sure even the most shy person in the group got to share her full story. This initial chatting, over coffee and muffins supplied by my lay leader spontaneously, took more than an hour.
Then I gave them a half an hour to reflect, pray, meditate, brainstorm, whatever they called it. I had planned for ti to be 45 minutes, but we used too much time chatting, and it was okay shorter. I had set up prayer stations in different parts of the sanctuary and foyer. Some people stayed in the circle where we had gathered, but a couple were drawn to the center by the cross, or the fountain, or the stain glass window. I myself was all about the bean bags, the window, and the labyrinth pillow. But then again, I set that station up with myself in mind. I asked them to list three strengths of the congregation and three ideas or goals or things they’d like to see us do.
After the half hour, we gathered together and I wrote their responses on those big Post-It easel papers, which we left on the back wall of the sanctuary to share with others tomorrow. We came up with a whole sheet of strengths, a sheet and a half of goals and ideas, and another sheet of ways the Lay Leadership team in particular and the church leaders in general could get this going.
The biggest thing is that starting in April, we want to try what one nearby church calls “Meeting Night,” but which we’re thinking of calling “Ministry Areas,” because we want people to understand that it’s not about being on (or confined to or sentenced to!) a team. We’ll have dinner together (provided by a different team each month– lay leadership is starting), and then break into different parts of the church, where individual groups (ministry areas) will meet: Property/Investments (trustees), Mission/Outreach projects (mission team), Money/Stewardship (stewardship and finance teams), Christian Education (sunday school teachers), and Congregational events/Nurture (lay leadership team) will all meet for about 45 minutes. Each team will list three items they’ve completed and three items they are working on/starting. Each team will also have the list of congregational goals (which currently were set by the Staff Parish Committee, but in the future could be set at an annual retreat for church leaders like the one I just had), and will try to make sure their projects work toward those goals. During this time, the lay leader and myself (and the Church Council chairperson, perhaps, when we have one other than me) will float, since we are by definition on all the teams. Also, this set up of course means that a person can only sit on one of those teams, or has to at the very least decide which one they want to sit on that month.
After the 45 minutes, we will come back together and have Church Council, which will consist largely of the 3 completed/3 ongoing projects lists the teams have just made and any questions they have for one another, plus the pastor’s report, which I usually use as a time to focus on a particular goal or ministry I’m working on. On a separate day of the month, Staff Parish Relations Committee (which is a private/confidential meeting and requires, obviously, my full attention), and Worship Team (which is a creative team and open, we hope, to just about the whole congregation) will meet back to back.
So, that means two nights of meetings for business a month, one for worship and SPRC, and one for everything else. For the record, I currently meet with: 1. Trustees the first Sunday of the month after church, 2. Staff-Parish Relations Committee the second Tuesday of the month, with Church Council immediately following, 3. Mission Team the first Tuesday of every other month, and 4. Worship team the third Tuesday of the month. I troubleshoot Finance and Christian Education as problems arise (which means problems are more prevalent because they are not being anticipated or handled proactively). Four regular meeting days down to two, *and* a better use of those times to include committees not currently being given any attention.
And the group was so excited about it, they wanted to start it right away. And one member of the group was so excited that she went home and told her husband all about it and they called me *in the midst of their own dinner out* to tell me about an idea for a church-based community theatre performance they had just dreamed up. This was a complete God-moment today, a convergence of the right people on the team and the right meeting agenda (through my own lack of preparation and therefore not over-thinking it), and the Spirit just shone through in the process. I am so proud of the brainstorming and sharing and inspiring this little group of people accomplished today!