It is so easy to fall back into the familiar when we try to change. We have all found this to be true. You know the drill, New Year arrives and you embark on turning over that new leaf and attempting an exercise plan or new budget or new diet. You might start out strong but before long you drift back to the same old habits. If it is hard enough for an individual to keep from falling back into the familiar, imagine how hard it is for a whole family or a church to change. Even when the new ways are more effective and healthier, we tend to favor the known and familiar. Maintaining change is hard.
I have been a Presbyterian for over 50 years and a Presbyterian minister for 23 years. So, I can say that I have come by my Presbyterian ways and habits honestly. I believe that there a many good things about our PCUSA systems and structures, but I also think that some of the things we’ve inherited are no longer serving us as well as they did 30 years ago, or 500 years ago. Sometimes I feel like we are still revering an 8-track system in an ipod world. I’m not into change for change’s sake, but I do think we need to experiment and risk and try to find better ways to live and grow together as a church living in the contemporary world.
Last year the congregation voted to amend our bylaws to allow for a smaller session, as way to free elders to be a governing and visioning body. As the elders are no longer chairing the majority of committees, we now allow for others who are gifted and called to lead in new and innovative ways without having to also be elders. Believe me, it has been hard not to fall back into the familiar. Especially for me as I have been a part of the old system for so long. As we end our first year and start another, I want to thank our session for the willingness to try new things and to pull us back on track when we have fallen back on old habits or gotten side tracked along the way. We are blessed with good leaders, from very diverse backgrounds, who all bring different thoughts and gifts to the mix. I am amazed at the many times they reach consensus and also impressed on how they have been willing to risk and move forward when they’ve had a difference of opinion and had to vote.
Two experiences have encouraged me in the quest to find new and better structures for Church life. The first is that I attended a conference last year that was about a new, innovative leadership structure that would work well with Presbyterian churches. Imagine my surprise and affirmation to find that it was almost exactly like what we are trying at WPC! Others are have the same problems and finding similar possibilities! The second experience was a visit to Westminster from a General Assembly committee that is looking at ways to help churches be more successful. I had a great meeting with the GA committee and they were very impressed with our plan and hope to have some follow up meetings to learn from our experience.
As we move forward into 2009, the session will be having a retreat to evaluate our progress, appoint new committee chairs and ministry leaders and seek God for his leading and direction for church. Please pray for our church leaders and encourage them as they seek to explore new and better ways to help people find their gifting and calling in the Lord.