My congregation has been in a pastoral transition for about a year now, which poses its challenges, creates opportunities, and -- may I say -- also causes me, occasionally, to be surprised.
Our congregation, like many other congregations, has meetings. We have Leadership Board meetings. We have Worship Planning Meetings. We have Committee Meetings. We have Global Mission Meetings. We have Education Meetings. We have Stewardship Meetings (sometimes). Lately, since we are in a pastoral transition, there have been other sorts of meetings as well.
You get the picture.
As associate pastor, there have been places where my input has been welcome, and other areas that I haven't been much involved. One of the places I haven't been involved has been a group called the "Nominating Committee." Their job has been to help fill the positions on the Board and other committees as they come up for election.
Like many jobs involving regular meetings, there hasn't been a long line of people waiting to do this job.
But about a year and a half ago, I had an idea about doing something different with this group. And, since no one told me not to, I started doing it.
Using some principles from the field of organizing, I made the former "Nominating Committee" into a "Leadership Development Committee" instead, with these objectives:
1. Create connections and get to know other people in the congregation.
2. Learn more about them as people: their stories, their interests, passions, concerns.
3. Help them to find places in and out of the congregation to develop their gifts.
4. Find out who can be developed as a congregational leader and help them find places to serve.
I didn't get this out of a book I read, and, even now, I wonder if this will work. We are coming up to the Congregational Meeting at the end of the fall, and will need to have people willing to serve in congregational positions. That's the criteria I imagine the congregation will use to judge whether this "system" works.
In the meantime, we try to have "one to one" conversations with two other people very month and report out on them. Recently we discovered in a conversation a retired woman who really wanted to be involved in a Social Service ministry -- so we're giving her the opportunity. We're making lists of people who like to do "hands on" ministry and hate meetings, who play instruments, who like to sing, who like to clean and to cook. We're finding out about people who are passionate about being a more diverse and inclusive faith community.
(Now we could use a good method to keep track of all of this information for us.)
When we do ask people to do a task, or lead a group, or be involved in something, we do it in the context of a relationship we are building, and after knowing something about the person we are talking to. We HOPE that we are asking them to be involved in something that they care about, and that will help them grow in their discipleship.
Every month when we meet around the table, I'm amazed: what we are doing feels strategic, holy, and risky. I go away every month impressed by the leadership of the people around the table, the people they are meeting, the circles that a rippling out from six people into the congregation.
As associate pastor, I often had ideas, sometimes ideas that I didn't really have the power to implement. It's always safer to have an idea if you don't ever had to try it and see if it works. (something like being a political pundit.)
But here I am, putting an idea into action, experimenting with my congregation, rallying the troops, not really knowing whether what I am doing will succeed or fail. I do think that this organizational principal will bear fruit, but that we will have to be patient. But I don't KNOW it. What I do know is that I am discovering (by experiment) more and more of who I am as a leader.
I'll let you know how it goes. Okay?