When I was a young preacher’s kid growing up in church, I generally found our church business meetings to be the pinnacle of boredom. What fell drolly upon my adolescent ears were people droning on about motions and rules, folks getting nitpicky about details, and oh so many questions that carried on while I was busy dreaming about lunch! Until I got a little older and grew fully into my church wonkiness, the only times these meetings ever got remotely interesting to me were the meetings where we nominated deacons. That’s when my younger brother and all his buddies would fold the legal paper-sized nomination sheets into paper airplanes (far more aerodynamic than the regular old letter-sized ones, of course!), and lined them up on the balcony rail, eyes filled with equal parts delight and dread if one were to launch, soaring down below in the middle of the sermon.
I held such distaste for church business meetings for decades, until I found myself serving a church and a community within who, themselves, shared in the disdain. For on the one hand, my growing young adult group longed to find their place within the body and bring their voices to our church’s shared conversation, but on the other hand, they could find literally anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon than wile those precious hours away at a church business meeting.
But by then I was beginning to hear these meetings with new ears. I would hear sparks and crackles of new ideas for staffing and how better to steward our resources. I would hear passionate pleas related to our church’s identity and living into who God called us to be. I heard lament over injustice and a hunger to make things right. And I curiously found myself in an unfamiliar place with my peers: defending the church business meeting as holy ground for a body of people to stumble together towards becoming the body of Christ, and inviting them to come and see for themselves.
I haven’t polled all the churches in the world, but I can’t imagine anyone to assume — except for die-hard business meeting enthusiasts, of which each church has a few! — that the best ministry, most meaningful connection, and the greatest mission a church might experience together is through a business meeting. But what I do see is that these times when the church gathers to consider, imagine, hear, see, approve, and advance its business are times when God can be powerfully and undeniably present within its body.
I saw that unfurl right smack in the middle of Kelly Auditorium last night during an ordinary old business meeting. In between motions and questions, our beloved community affirmed the names of dozens of you who have heard God’s call to serve your church. We celebrated new members in our midst and found closure with ones who have departed. We clarified our language to enable our Deacons to better do their work. We blessed the next step in Kaylee Godfrey’s ordination process, carrying forth one of the church’s central tasks to join God in the calling of people to ministry. We made sound, sustainable decisions about our financial future and dwelt together in the possibility of what that future might hold. And all of it was bathed in prayer and strengthened in fellowship.
There were Robert’s Rules, of course, and (sadly) no paper airplanes. But filling the space in between was the Spirit of God: nudging, illuminating, opening us to what and who we might become.
Together in the work of Love,