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Having Difficult Congregational Conversations

Larry Glover-Wetherington

This blog refers to the November E-ncourager article on “Five Spiritual Practices for Congregations.” The first spiritual practice was Listening. Listening to God, to one another, and to our neighborhood.

Baptist congregations typically make decisions using Roberts Rules of Order, which are good as a structure for order of business, but in several way do not serve us well as the body of Christ. When a decision is made, there are winners and losers, and often the body is left wounded and not united in the way forward or inspiring support for the decision made. Robert’s Rules favor extroverted people and can also be abused and manipulated by people who have agendas and more knowledge of the parliamentary process. Most importantly, a decision made by a vote determines the will of the congregation but does not discern the will of God.

Congregational discussions can be difficult, and some issues may be avoided because of their potential for conflict. One approach is to have congregational discussions outside of a business meeting where there is no threat of a vote hanging over people’s heads. The congregation should agree on a set of ground rules for the discussion. I often suggest ground rules after the manner of the book, “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten,” such as, one person speaks at a time, no interruptions, everyone will have an opportunity to speak, anyone may leave at any time they desire, and make your own statements without debating or correcting others. They should also be conducted in a spirit of “Worshipful Work,” a term coined by Charles Olsen, where discussion is intentionally conducted in the presence of God with calls for prayer and scripture always in order.

Even then congregations should expect discussions to get bogged down and tense at times. Perhaps calling a break for prayer, or even adjourning the meeting to a different time gives people an opportunity to hear from God and consider new ideas. If everyone stays with the conversation in good faith and grace with one another, what may have felt like an impasse can be transcended with new life. These conversations are often better with a third party, such as Barnabas Partnership, acting as facilitator. All this is to say that there are ways to have difficult conversations in a healthy manner that discern the will of God and create unity.

Larry Glover-Wetherington, our partner in ministry who resides in Durham, North Carolina. He has served in various capacities either as pastor, intentional interim pastor, coach, and mentor in numerous churches across the Southeast. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 919.564.6061 or coach@TransformYourMinistry.com.

People are the Most Important

We are in the relationship business. From the beginning God created us for relationship. Jesus became man to build relationships with us. He had compassion on the people. Everywhere he went he clashed with the Temple elite because he put people ahead of the rules.
Some people are easy to love and these are probably the ones we hang out with. Some are downright ornery and get under our skin. We want them to disappear.
Some others are rejected by society. What barriers keep us from loving these folks? However we feel about these individuals, remember God loves each of them.
Who are the people Jesus misses most? Can we love enough to invest in their lives? Are we willing to risk being hurt when we connect with people?
Do we love our neighbor as much as ourselves?
Jerry Chiles

Problematic Vacations?

In response to my earlier article, I would like to clarify some concepts of vacation. I have been on vacation before when the entire time was spent in go! go! go! and spend! spend! spend! modes. Potential problems with that are that upon return you are tired rather than refreshed and perhaps in debt or strapped for three additional months. Although the big and sometimes expensive vacations are a good getaway, especially with kids, they do not accomplish the essential point I was trying to make.
Vacation primarily needs to be a refreshment and rest – a time to breathe deeply and live outside the daily stress and grind of ministry. “Staycations” are becoming popular and if you stay out of the office, could provide needed time away. And between vacations? Don’t forget to take your regularly scheduled days off. They are important times to breathe too!

These thoughts above are from John Daniels, our partner based out of Wilmington, North Carolina. His primary focus is working alongside churches in administrative challenges and opportunities. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 910.899.6724 or jdaniels@fbcwilmington.org.

Plant a new partnership with other churches in your community

In last month’s article I shared four ways to go about planting new seeds in your church’s ministry. The last point of partnering, “partnering with other churches”, is generating good feedback in Barnabas Partnership discussions with ministers.

There are at least three benefits to taking this approach. The first win is that you get to share ideas with other ministers who may be going through some of the same challenges that you are facing. Our world is quickly going from top-down to learning across the level plane. Sometimes the best ideas to address your problems don’t always come from a denominational headquarters.

A second plus to this approach is that you might develop a deeper fellowship with other ministers and laity in your area. For instance, a group of ministers in Southside Virginia is considering coming together after a planned training event to start a peer learning group. When we become less isolated in ministry, we become stronger together.

Another benefit we have seen is that when churches come together and work toward a shared need, there is a better chance that they can receive assistance from organizations that support non-profit groups. An example is that today’s financial grants are more apt to be given to a group of churches meeting a need in the community than to an individual church doing the same ministry.

Of course, there are other benefits to this approach. But don’t let the simple motto of “going it alone” be your modus operandi. Plant some seeds of cooperation in your community and watch the fruits of your labor multiply!

After the Keys Are Yours

One of the issues that churches fail to consider when building or renovating new space is the

future cost of operating that space. A new space presents potential increases in utilities,

cleaning supplies, janitorial services, insurance premiums and maintenance costs even if it is

never used! 75% of the lifetime cost of a building is in maintenance. Add to that the expense of

doing ministry in that space- expendable materials, equipment and staffing, and your church

could spend many thousands of dollars over the coming years. Maintenance costs can be

estimated by square footage (in our region $5- $7 per square foot annually), projecting from

current costs, or by more complex tools like a lifecycle cost analysis. I suggest using a variety of

tools and seeing how they compare with your current pattern of expenses.

What can you do about these costs? Here are three ideas.

1. Build green: While you have the money in construction funds, install LED fixtures

and more efficient HVAC systems. For an upfront cost of $60,000, my church is saving

$10,000 a year on utilities. Solar is another option and there are ways that donors can

legally get the tax credits for significant upfront investment while your church benefits

from the electrical output.

2. Develop multiple sources of income: rental on use of space, dedicating other

rental income, and setting up an endowment for future costs. Fees for services like

exercise classes are permissible as long as they stem from the ministry and mission of

your church.

3. Escrow funds for known future expenses: Elevators have to be serviced ($2000 a

year or $400 an hour) and gym floors have to be refinished ($6000). Better to set aside a

little each year than try to raise it all at once with a “love offering” that cuts into budget

gifts.

It’s a great day when the contractor ceremonially hands over the keys to your new space. Plan

ahead for the days to come and you can enjoy many years of good ministry.

Dr. Paul Raybon is the Barnabas Partner covering the Western Carolinas You can contact him

at paul@barnabaspartnership.com

Ministry in Other Contexts

Many ministers are considering moving to other careers. What are some of the reasons these
moves are contemplated? Is the church becoming a more difficult place to work? Is God calling
these ministers to unfamiliar places of ministry in a different context? Is it a misunderstanding of
calling?

I would like to hear your comments about these thought provoking questions. Contact me at jerrychiles1@gmail.com.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister.

Warning Signs for Ministers

Many ministers are caught in the church’s downsizing brought about by fewer members and diminishing finances. What are the warning signs that hint downsizing may be coming?  How can we help ministers in mid-career retool for the next step in ministry?

I would like to hear your comments about these thought provoking questions. Contact me at jerrychiles1@gmail.com.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister.

A Class on Spiritual Disciplines

I had my annual check-up last month and my weight is going up.  I know the job change I have had has led to my eating differently.  I had been doing very well but now I am slipping.  But even the knowledge that I have well before, and knowing exactly how I did it, it is hard to return to a better way of eating.

Just because someone has the knowledge does not mean it will automatically turn into action.  So how do people become “transformed into Christ-likeness”?  Part of the answer lies with Spiritual Disciplines/Practices, which are tools that put a person before God in ways that allow Christ to change them.

Here are some of them: Silence and Solitude help us to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us.  Service calls us to put love into action.  Submission reminds us it is about God, not us.   Fasting challenges us to be honest about our behavior when we are stressed and to allow God to root out the source. Simplicity challenges us to discover “where our heart lies” and let God move it more towards God.  Meditation allows our deepest thoughts to come forward so God can be part of dealing with them.  Most of these are found in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.  But whatever resource is used the transformation is enabled when we practice disciplines/actions that put us before God so God can work with us.

These thoughts above are from David Fox, our partner based out of Roanoke, Virginia. He has served in various roles either as pastor, associate pastor or minister of education in Virginia churches.

A Class on How to Study the Bible

The exegetical study method is taught in seminary is now something most congregational members can learn and use.  The resources that used to be so expensive, like commentaries, now are on church library shelves or are easily accessible on the internet or in a Bible software program.

Teaching the three parts of good Bible study: Observation, Interpretation and Application is where it begins.  Then, trusting the Holy Spirit in us from the beginning by using our own powers of observation and just the Bible without any “help”.  Afterwards we need to add “helps” using, good resources of commentaries, Bible dictionaries, study Bibles, and an atlas to interpret scripture. Learning which resources come from different perspectives and how they compare to one’s own perspective deepens our faith as well.  Finally our goal is applying scripture through theological reflection and spiritual disciplines so one’s life is transformed into Christ likeness.

These thoughts above are from David Fox, our partner based out of Roanoke, Virginia. He has served in various roles either as pastor, associate pastor or minister of education in Virginia churches. 

Before You Push Send…

In our most recent newsletter, I wrote about a time where I reacted impulsively and poorly to a set of circumstances happening around me, and it happened in front of some teenagers in my youth group. I discussed four ways in handling when teens see you mess up. In this follow up, I want to go a little further on the subject of impulsive actions, because it seems that where we get in trouble the most, and it seems to happen more often on social media.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to go on a rant when your angry or upset about something and post it on the social media platform of your choice. After all, we feel some sense of security behind a screen. I wonder, however, how many of us would be willing to go address the issue with the person who could do something about our issue, because I think the number of us willing to do so has decreased dramatically because we feel we can go on social media to vent our frustrations without any consequences.

So here’s a bit of advice from former NFL head coach Herm Edwards… “Don’t press send.” If you find yourself agitated enough to write a post, tweet, email or comment, please, before you press send, take a moment to think about how it may come across or look, because once you press “send”, like the words coming out of your mouth, you can’t take it back.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Richard Wood, our partner in ministry for youth, children and social media ministry. He is an associate pastor in Sanford, North Carolina .