Imagine with me! Take four taxi drivers from four diverse parts of the globe and drop them into the rush hour traffic of some foreign major city without any culturally relevant training in road rules. Each one would have a different perspective of what should happen on the road and road rage would ensue.
This is not that different from what we do with new people attending our churches. We drop them into the system without clearly defining “how things work here” or “how decisions are made in our church”.
As a conflict coach working in multiple governance models in various denomination I have seen the outcome of this lack of articulating the house rules to new visitors and even new members. Church-rage usually occurs at the earliest AGM. The curse of not educating new people in our preferred method of governance results in confusion and negative conflict.
Clearly the answer for this governance traffic jam is documentation, education and commitment. Every stressed out church I have encountered over the past five years has not reviewed and/or renewed their documents for many years. One church board was shocked when I presented their bylaws to them in a Mind Map format. They did not know “that” was in the by-laws. “That” was the very issue they were at odds about. The conflict could have been resolved by reviewing and renewing their documents especially for new board members.
Someone from a congregational model will have a tough time reorienting to a leader led model of decision making. Re-education for new members (and the ever increasing non-member member) might alleviate the curse of misinformation and confusion when decisions are made by leaders or by congregational vote.
One move towards solving the governance traffic jam is the annual renewal of church membership that includes a fresh commitment to the church community and its preferred and understood governance model. This will help include those who are new and give those who have been around for a while a chance to revisit what it means to be a member in their congregation. A similar trend is happening with conflict resolution and restoration policies. But that is for another article.
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