Yesterday the congregation where I am currently serving as interim on staff held it’s annual meeting. I was expecting a relatively quick meeting as long as we didn’t get bogged down too much with constitution wording changes and the annual presentation of the budget. I also figured people in attendance would be motivated to think and decide quickly in part because they would want to get home from the meeting to watch the Vikings and Packers.
Well, needless to say, the unexpected happened. The meeting went for nearly two hours. However, I was not mad or disappointed about that. Actually I was quite in awe of this. Not only were those in attendance participating and active, you could see how much they thought the conversation and discussion was important.
They were motivated and invested. This speaks highly of the congregation, but more importantly of their grasp of lay leadership and what they perceive as the redevelopment the congregation is in the midst of.
What particularly strikes me today was the way the people gathered decided they did not want to take all of the suggested budget changes as is. From the floor congregant after congregant expressed a desire to not cut staff hours and compensation. Now, to be fair, the plan in place from the congregation’s leadership board wasn’t to cut staff hours, but to rather change the staffing model. I believe the congregation understands the need for the staffing model changes. However, I was floored by the way they stood up and actively offered a bit more financially with each other in pledges and checks in order to try and make it apparent that they believe investing in ministry, involves investing in staff.
It was mentioned that staff salaries and income levels have not increased in a number of years. The noticeable reaction from those gathered struck me. There is a level of deep care and compassion among this congregation. I am not sure the financial decisions from yesterday were little more than a band-aid, but to me they say something about the heart and mind of this congregation.
Whether it has been named or not, they understand themselves as stewards. They don’t see themselves as owners of what God has given, but stewards of resources entrusted to them. The mysterious and unexpected actions from yesterday’s meeting confirm my suspicion that even though some decisions in this congregation (like all faith communities) are made out of fear and scarcity, deep down there is a large heart of abundance and growth. God is clearly up to something with and through this faith community. I’m excited to see what that is, and to be part of that as I continue to serve in my interim capacities there.
For those of you who are active in faith communities, what are your usual congregational meeting experiences like? What’s one memory from a meeting that stands out to you and why?
Image Credit: Annual Church Meeting