As our last quarterly meeting came to a close, I gave some homework to those gathered. “Do some vision seeking over the next few months.” Silence. Or in other words, “Think about the mission and vision of our church in the coming months”. Our church council has noted that as we look towards 2020, it’s a good time to also be thinking about the mission, vision, values, and goals statements for our church.
Partly because as we sat around the table we realized most people couldn’t name any of those things. Most of us could easily name our church’s tagline though: Bethany Lutheran – A Place Where People Care. That tagline is in many ways the soul and identity of our congregation, so maybe our other statements should reflect that too?
This homework led to an even larger conversation around our church’s quarterly meetings. No matter how hard we seem to try, attendance is low. Most quarters those in attendance are council members, committee chairs, and sometimes a few others. It’s a small group.
But when ideas, events, policies, and projects begin making their way in our church, this meeting is one of the first stops. And so as things are discussed within teams or committees, with our church’s council, by the time many of our members see a newsletter article or post on Facebook, they might feel out of the loop.
I have “communication” as a topic for one of my upcoming blog posts, as it’s a common struggle in many churches. But one of the key ways we help with communication is this quarterly meeting.
We look at the calendar, we talk about these topics. It used to be considered just a calendar meeting, but really when we look at our church’s calendar, we’re also looking at the vision for our church’s future. Maybe just the next three month’s of future, but we’re hoping to see God’s vision for us during that time.
But that’s not exactly what people are expecting from this meeting. Sure they expect some calendaring, but vision seeking isn’t really on most people’s minds as we flip through dates and events. When it’s announced ahead of time that policies, carpet purchases, or other big items will be on our agenda, we do see an increase in attendance. But “vision seeking”, or saying “We hope you come to think about the next few months in our church” just doesn’t seem to inspire.
And so what do we do? Well, two things.
1. Add Food
Our next quarterly meeting will be September 19th at 6:30pm, and those who gathered at our June meeting agreed – we should probably include food if we want people to join. So, let’s make it a potluck! All in our church are invited to bring their favorite dish to share. As pastor, I’m never opposed to this kind of idea.
2. Change the name…again
At some point in the last few years, the name of the quarterly meeting had changed. It used to be the “Quarterly Leader Meeting”. And when inviting all the members of our church to attend, most people responded, “But I’m not a leader.”
So, recognizing that not everyone identified themselves as leaders, the name was changed simply to “Quarterly Meeting”. Because the idea was always for this meeting to be a space for communication, vision seeking, and connection between our church’s council, committees, teams, and members.
But, for those of us who did gather in our small numbers, we realized that name might not get at what we were hoping for.
So instead, beginning in September the name will be “Quarterly Visioning Meeting”, with an emphasis on the vision seeking part. We’ll see how it goes!
What are ways you find yourself vision seeking in your life? In your church? How does food or names motivate or inspire you? Do you think you’ll be joining in at our next quarterly visioning meeting? We hope you will!