Here’s my assumption. Congregations stink at processes. They stink two ways. Most don’t have processes they dearly need. And the processes they do have do not embody adequately theological beliefs or commitments.
I’ve got some pretty big church horror stories, curl your toes incompetence. And many of them have to do with hiring and firing processes. They are legion and a few of them come from personal experience. I once interviewed with a congregation, was given every assurance the job was mine when I got on the airplane to go home and never heard from them again. I found out about this particular church from their previous minister who had taken the job at a church I interviewed for and never heard from. I was told I didn’t get the job by the preacher who took the job. Seriously.
I work with a lot of congregations. More than half report not having job descriptions for their ministry staff. Nearly all report lacking a meaningful process for reviewing staff. Nearly all.
The news is not much better for things like elder selection, budget processes, worship planning, ministry direction, etc. And processes for dealing with congregational conflict are sorely lacking. Most congregations do a poor job of communicating, and the capacity to share work among groups is low.
I know, this sounds very pessimistic. And I’m sure the congregation of which you are a part is the exception to all of these things. I have some hunches, however, as to why this might be the case. Two primary reasons.
First, congregations are full of volunteers. That makes processes tough, especially ones that require time and extended effort. Congregations, as volunteer organizations, have very low attention spans.
Second, ministers don’t see this type of work as ministry. They see it as administrative or institutional and they have more spiritual matters to attend. Ministry is thought of principally in terms of teaching, preaching, and praying. But I’m convinced that the nitty gritty of ministry is in making a shared life vibrant and life-giving, and processes that are meaningful, hospitable, and dependable are crucial to the development of this kind of sustainable community. Because many enter ministry to do other things, these kinds of considerations are often overlooked.
So, I talked in the previous posts about processes as an expression of faith. I want to be concrete about that in future posts.