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Notes from the Lay Leader

No scripture reference this month: I’ll explain that later.


The mission of Big Rapids First UMC is to reach out and bless every child of God. The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our Church Council and others have been exploring changing the ORGANIZATION (not the ministry or the theology) of our church to a Simplified Accountable Structure, where one Leadership Board of 8-10 members meets regularly to monitor ongoing activities and to plan new ministries for our church. The board will keep minutes and communicate with the rest of us fully and regularly.


It’s my belief that most people associated with this church believe (when they think about this at all) that the traditional structure works very well for us. If you look on the side of the large wooden structure outside Pastor Jeremy’s office, you see two pages listing committees and members. Very good, you think. If you look more closely, you’d notice that several of these committees have no chair, which makes it unlikely that they would meet to be sure they are doing what they were established to do.


The Children/Youth Ministry Committee has a chair who has moved to another part of the state, and that committee does not meet. And yet, an ad hoc team got together and held a successful VBS this summer. A team got the job done without committing to attend meetings for three years.


The Worship/Music Committee has disbanded and been replaced by a Worship Design Team. Do you find worship less meaningful because they concentrate on WORSHIP rather than meeting on regularly scheduled dates and recording minutes?


Pastor Jeremy is listed as chair of the Outreach/Hospitality Team because it’s important to him (and to those who serve on it) that these activities HAPPEN. It’s not important that he lead it.


In many ways, we already operate under a simplified structure. At our annual church conference with the District Superintendent, we are expected to have lists of names for members of all our standing committees. Under our current structure, we need to fill over 100 positions (we have fewer than 300 members).


I serve on the Nominations Committee, which determines what names go into all the existing committee slots. It is difficult to get this task done. When I ask various people “Would you serve on the X committee for three years?” The response is usually some form of “I don’t want to be on a committee that meets monthly. I certainly don’t want to be the chair of the committee. I don’t want to record minutes. I just want to help with stuff. Call me when there’s a task to be done, but don’t put me on a committee.”


One example of a task that would be much easier with one Leadership Board is the recent moving of our very valuable grand piano, so it will be in Fellowship Hall while we worship there during the elevator installation project. Remember, we have been waiting for THAT for years! The Director of Music arranged for it to be moved by a professional piano moving company, which is insured and bonded. At another meeting recently, somebody asked if the Trustees had approved this move. Nobody knew, and should the move have waited until the Trustees gave permission? Yes, under our current structure. It was then asked if the piano has its own insurance rider. It does not. Should it have special insurance? Probably. But that involves the Finance Committee, which has nothing in the 2022 budget for insurance for the piano. Should the Finance Committee take money from some other budget line, such as staff salaries or our mission activities to cover this? Should the piano wait until they meet to plan for this? THEN wait longer to get the approval of the Church Council, when they meet?


Should we have waited until all this is accomplished to move the piano? SHOULD WE POSTPONE THE ELEVATOR INSTALLATION UNTIL THIS IS DONE? With a Leadership Board, the worship/music team could come to a board meeting, explain their plans, answer questions, and get a decision that day.


I can’t find a scripture passage where Jesus or Paul says that we should establish a church with dozens of committees, each of which may have a single purpose but ends up involving themselves in every other group’s business. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all…” That sentence continues, but it doesn’t say to “put them on committees.” We at Big Rapids FUMC have work to do. We need to streamline ourselves to make the work easier and faster, not slower.

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