Saturday, September 17, 2011

Voters Meetings.... a few thoughts

Tomorrow we have another Voters Meeting.  I hesitate to call it a Voters Meeting since we do not actually count Voters the way Missouri congregations once did.  It is really more of a congregational meeting.  We take attendance but there is no penalty for not attending.  I suppose that if there were anything really controversial this might become an issue but it is not an issue when the meetings are fairly routine.  Even though the budget for the new fiscal year will be acted upon, there is little that is much different from last year and therefore it is not all that controversial.

We will get somewhere between 50-90 folks out for the meeting.  It will begin almost the second after the benediction from the late service. If things go well, there will be a good representation of folks who will stay after the service and others from first service will join them to consider the proposed spending plan.  Most of the questions have already been asked and answered at the Q & A that took place between services over Labor Day weekend.  Undoubtedly there will be questions that never get asked and presumptions (generally false ones) that will be whispered outside the meeting.  Misinformation is often the most difficult part of a Voters Meeting.  Some of that misinformation is innocent enough and some is because some folks presume that there are hidden things buried under the figures. 

Inevitably there are those who will complain that more people should have been there and more questions should have been asked and more information should have been supplied.  I suppose they are right.  In the end, absent a controversial issue, I am fairly happy with the usual turn out.  What disappointments me is not so much the questions and answers or attendance but the ones that should get asked but are never brought up.

Why are we NOT raising the bar with missions?  Why do is our budget nearly the same as last year instead of growing?  Where is our passion?  Where are our hopes and dreams?  Meetings tend to be less about the future and more about the past.  Perhaps that is because we know the past and we do not know the future.  But I wish it were more about the future.  I long to hear people ask for more instead of settling for the same.  I ache for the pointed questions about what we are doing today to prepare for tomorrow and what kind of tomorrow we hope and pray to see.  I want so to be surprised by people volunteering or even demanding to serve or take responsibility for this or for that.

In many respects, Voters Meetings tend to be a lot about the Pastor.  If things are going well, then folks are pleased with their Pastor.  If things are not going well, they want to know what the Pastor is going to do about it.  This is natural -- our great temptation is to see the Pastor as some CEO or COO who manages things on their behalf -- but it is not the way it should be.  The meeting needs to be less about the Pastor and more about the parish -- especially more about the ministry of the baptized carried out from the parish base into the world (witness, mercy, service, teaching, and nurture).

In the end I will be happy if we get one or two questions that begin to raise these kinds of issues.  I will be happy if we can get through the meeting without flubbing any answers to questions that might be asked.  I will be happy if we can spend some honest moments reflecting upon our people, what is going on in their lives, and how we can serve one another in Jesus' name -- and the community and world around us!  But we will just have to see...

I will admit that if I did not have to be there, I probably would not attend.  These meetings tend to be more important for what is not said or what does not go on than what is said or does take place.  I guess that is why I am always a little hopeful but ready to be disappointed... I wonder if many Pastors don't approach these congregational meetings with the same feelings...


Anonymous said...

Voters Meetings tend to reflect the
demeanor of the pastor. If he is
combative, then the meeting will be
combative. If he refuses to be
baited into combat, then the meeting
will not be combative. Basically,
the Pastor sets the tone and
atmosphere with dignified and humble
leadership of a Christ-like servant.
He quietly moves the parish to look
into the future with a mission for
the future. These things do not
happen in a voters meeting but the
pastor exhibits these qualities
throughout the week doing ministry.

Anonymous said...

Don't sweat the annual congregational meeting, pastor. It's not that big of a deal and the people do their best with the information they have. One important person you didn't mention is the president and the manner in which he chairs the meeting. That can make a big difference. Thank God for our faithful laymen and for their interest in serving the Lord. These meetings to adopt budgets and elect officers and boards are necessary, but they aren't all that consequential in the larger scheme of Word and Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters was not saying that he was "sweating" the meeting. He simply puts things out there for discussion.