But We’ve Always Done it That Way

I have had the privilege of sitting in on the meetings between members of the Commission on Ministry and the Mission Team with sessions that are requesting Salary Supplement funds. As you may recall, the presbytery voted to begin using funds from two sources in order to provide salary supplements to small churches with limited funds of their own.
The application period has now closed for 2020 and seven congregations made application. There is a three page document that becomes the basis of the meeting to discover more about the congregations and to see if they qualify for this grant. It has been a privilege because we get to hear so many good things about the mission and ministry of these congregations. Some of them average 40 or 50 people in worship but their impact on their communities goes far beyond what you might imagine a small group could do. They host people without secure housing; they feed people with fresh food; they work with children from nearby schools who need time with caring adults and so on. I heard something in one of the visits that sounds like such a good idea that I wanted to pass it along.
At the Presbyterian Church in Palatine, they have seasonal teams instead of standing committees. On their pledge Sunday each year, they have sign-up sheets for people to use to volunteer to serve on one or more seasonal teams. Each team has about five members. For instance, you might sign up for the Advent team. That team meets with the pastor and musician about eight weeks before the season begins. They spend time on the lectionary readings for that season and look for a theme. They then build everything that will happen in the congregation during that season around that theme: education, social events, mission projects, worship. One individual can sign up for two seasons in a row if they choose, but then they must take a break for at least one season.
What a great idea! Imagine being a member of that church and looking at your calendar for the whole year. You realize that you will have the time and energy to serve during the summer and from January until Lent, for instance, but not to sit on a committee that meets every month whether they need to or not. Imagine the new ideas that can be generated when you have a new group of people handling these aspects of a church’s life. There is less of the “we have always done it this way” approach to the church year. Just imagine using the lectionary readings as the basis of your decisions instead of thinking that it is February so you must serve something with cherries, or it is the second Sunday of September so you must serve the same hotdogs at the Sunday School kick off that you have always served!
The pastor at Palatine, RJ Kang, and the session there would be happy to talk with you about how this works. I wondered with them about how they convinced the people who have run a certain committee since before the Ark was built to give up their hold on that work. They admitted it was a little bit of a struggle at first but now the church loves doing things this way. Just imagine how your congregation might work if you set aside the ways you have always done things, listened closely for God’s guidance, and set out on a new adventure to bring hope in the name of Jesus!
Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Chicago