Someone once said, “Change is always difficult and if it isn’t difficult it isn’t significant change.” If that is true and I think it is, I am very happy to say that we’ve been experiencing true change at Westminster this last year. At our congregational meeting last year we voted to change our number of elders from 12 to 7. This may have seemed like a small change, but it was an important piece of a bigger plan.
For many years sessions have been seen as the managing center of the church. In some ways this has worked well, but in other ways it has not. A plus is always having people to fill positions, but a negative is that the gifting and passion of the incoming elders does not always fit the open positions. Another downside is that the visioning and governing role of elders is often lost, as session members are too focused on their own individual committees to have a sense of the whole picture of the church. When the session is in essence a committee of committee chairs, it is easy to lose a sense of the overall vision and leadership can degrade to turf wars.
The new plan relieves the elders of most of the committee and ministry responsibilities so they can actually be the visioning and governing board of the church. The committees and ministries are then lead by gifted lay leaders and/or staff who work under the direction and broad guidance of the session. The structure allows for the ministry leaders and committee leaders to have more freedom to move forward without session having to micromanage every action. The result is more actual ministry and less committee meetings and red tape.
This first year has not been without its bumps and everything is not yet functioning as envisioned, but much great progress has been made. The most progress has been in the growth of small groups, more community building opportunities and the good work being done to beautify our church campus We now have 7 study groups and 5 fellowship groups! Our Sunday Welcome Table and New Dinner Groups are helping build community. The painting of the sanctuary and the remolding of the bathrooms are just a few of the projects that have been accomplished. There are many good things happening.
In January at the annual session retreat will be evaluating our progress, regrouping and moving forward into 2009 and beyond. Thanks to everyone who has been patient and willing to take risks to try something new. Remember the 7 last words of the church are: We have never done it that way before.