Handling diversity: lessons from a larger church 1

I was thinking over the weekend whether there was anything I’ve learned from leading both a smaller church and a larger one (at least by BUGB standards) which might help the current BUGB debate. So here is the first of a couple of posts designed to share some ideas, you will have to judge whether you think they are useful.

1. Diversity of view is to be welcomed, expected and encouraged. My observation in church life is that often the better decisions are those that made with difficulty, when we have needed to work at it rather than everyone instantly agreeing. Unlike a smaller church where most of the members will know each other and be aware of their views, in a larger congregation there is often a wider diversity of views on everything.

2. Assume people are being helpful. It is all too easy to assume that someone or group who appear to be obstructive are doing so because of bad motives. Actually, whilst I might not agree, often their motivation is entirely Godly and arises from a desire to seek what is best.

3. Companions on a journey. What binds us in unity as a church is not thinking the same, neither are we held together by common preferences in worship, preaching, or small groups. What holds us together is a shared commitment to being the church of God together; living as disciples who love God, love one another and share in serving God’s mission though our participation in this particular local church.

One of the places this works out is in Church Meetings. The practice here is to have meetings on a monthly basis during term time (ie 9 a year). Where something is of particular importance such as changing the leadership structure, appointing additional members of the staff team or reworking our church rules we have found a three meeting approach helpful.

– In the first meeting, the idea is introduced with opportunity for questions, feedback and other discernment. After this meeting there is often opportunity for people to feed other comments back to the Leadership Team. “What do we need to do or change, why and how might be go about it?”

– In the second meeting, a detailed proposal is brought and decisions are made on the key elements.  “This is what we propose to do and here are the elements which make this up”

– In the third meeting, a final approval is sought and actions put in place to implement this. “This is for formal agreement and these are the steps to get from here to there”.

Over the next week or so I’ll try to blog some more on clarity and communication, and courage and releasing.

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