09 February 2009

THE ADVENTURES OF GRAYING PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: Spreading The Load

After school the next day, Red went for his usual run with Larry Matthews, a member of Graying Pres and fellow teacher at East Overshoe High School. Larry and Cindy, his wife, teach the “Toddler” class for the three children at GPC in the 2 to 4 age group.

Red mentioned the day-long study that he had undertaken on the snow day. After he finished his description, Larry asked “What are the other duties of the elders?”

“The other duties with regard to the spiritual life are pretty general. The session organizes itself to advance the ministry of the Church and the mission of the congregation. It may order special offerings, special days of prayer and fasting, special days of worship and other matters that benefit the spiritual life of the people. And it has a catch-all responsibility ‘to do whatever else may be necessary for the spread of the Gospel, the edification of the members, the well being of the church, the advancement of the Kingdom, and the growth in grace of all.’”

“The problem that I see,” Red continued, “is that this session has completely ignored its main responsibilities to educate and discipline itself and to oversee the spiritual growth of the congregation. Instead, it has gotten itself wrapped around the administrative axle.”

“How so,” asked Larry?

“Well, the session has five what I would call ‘general’ administrative duties. It receives members; keeps the rolls; dismisses, restores, grants affiliation, or removes members; determines the budget of the church and the benevolence objectives of the congregation; and determines policies regarding the use of the property and facilities of the congregation. None of these is all that difficult if the session has its priorities straight, but these are the things that we seem to be hung up on. I mean we spent time arguing over whether a clock was included in a line item on the budget and whether a committee, chaired by a single elder, could unilaterally control a huge chunk of the budget.”

“But aren’t we a Pennsylvania corporation with trustees,” Larry gasped? Red realized that in his emotional state, he was pushing the run. Larry was also a former Marine, but Red had run him pretty hard. He dialed things back a click.

“Absolutely. For instance, we determine the budget of the church and the benevolence objectives of the congregation, but once we do so, the only time we ought to get involved in the business of the corporation or the Board of Deacons is if they depart from the budget. For example, if the Worship Ministry wants to buy a clock out of its budgeted funds, who are we to say ‘No’? Of course, if they try to hang the clock in the sanctuary, they have probably overstepped their authority unless the session approves. And the pastor is free to ignore the clock!”

“I seem to remember when I was in OCS that leaders delegate and supervise, but they let the guy with the responsibility for a particular function do his job. The leader steps in only to prevent serious harm or to correct a misunderstanding of the original orders. Isn’t that right?” Larry put on a spurt of energy and ran ahead.

“Right on, Artillery Boy,” Red responded, kicking a little and catching up. “But when the elders are not properly educated and trained to do the hard work of ministry and spiritual oversight, it is easier to become micro-managers than to take the corrective action necessary to do their own job. And the Deacons and trustees have let it happen. Easier for them, too. But the task of the Deacons is a heavy one in and of itself. If they are doing their job, the two groups of ordained leaders will focus on the first duty of the church – evangelism. They will be fully consumed by the task of leading people to the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and caring for the members of our flock who need it. The nitty gritty temporal business stuff can and ought to be handled by the trustees.”

“Will the Deacons do it, Grunt,” Larry asked? They slowed to a walk outside the gym.

“That, my man, is the sixty four dollar question.”

Well, it looks as if it is time for the Deacons to sit on Red’s bullseye. What are their duties and responsibilities? What should they be doing? What will Mary have for dinner?

For answers to these and other pressing questions, tune in tomorrow for the further Adventures of Graying Pres.

1 comment:

Quotidian Grace said...

Looking at the goings on in Congress, it's clear that it's not just sessions that have no clear sense of boundaries and what their responsibility is.

Just wanted to encourage you with this series! I don't always comment, but I'm following it closely.