Week 83: "What can our branch do to more efficiently make decisions at meetings so we can stay focused on things that really matter?"

Question: "When our church holds business meetings, we always seem to get bogged down in trivial details. What can we do to more efficiently make decisions so we can stay focused on things that really matter?"

Response 1: Phil Davis

When I first read this question I had two initial thoughts.  At first, I empathized with anyone asking it!  I’ve been through many business meetings that seem to get bogged down in administrative, maintenance of the edifice, committee functions, and various other details. And I’ve seen them spend hours discussing the problem without ever dealing with it metaphysically or prayerfully!

Yet, to stay focused on things that really matter, we have to ask ourselves what really matters?! And that leads me to my second thought. I remembered something I heard at a meeting for Mother Church employees many years ago. The speaker asked the employees if they knew what the Committee on Business was all about (see Church Manual p. 79). Very few hands went up. The speaker continued, “Well, maybe it would be better if I asked, ‘What is the real business of The Mother Church?’” Several people said, "healing!” “And that” he said, “is what the Committee on Business is all about. It is several experienced, listed practitioners, and they deal with specific topics assigned to them just as a practitioner would work for a patient”(see Annual Meeting report in The Christian Science Journal August 1983.)

What a great model for our branch business meetings! What if we responded to each issue as practitioner rather than just as a member? Now I realize that a democratically run branch church means that there are issues that have to be practically resolved. However, I have found that this model of the Committee on Business helps me and others to find better and higher solutions to the challenges that our churches are facing.

How do you do this? Well, I ask questions with each topic:

  • What does this issue have to do with healing?
  • What am I perceiving metaphysically that can help me to more effectively pray about this issue?
  • Am I really dealing with this issue as a metaphysician rather than reacting to it emotionally, personally or organizationally?

This has led me to ask for a moment of silent prayer, or to ask that we table the issue so we can pray more thoroughly about it, or to say something that helps elevate the discussion to a spiritual level. And you know prayer also guides me on when to keep my mouth shut!

When you really think about it, only a spiritual focus can transform a meeting from human business to what really matters—being about our Father’s business of healing!

Response 2: Dee Sharples

You might consider adopting a better model for how to approach church meetings by embracing the example set by Jesus in the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, who had welcomed him into their home to deliver his message (see Luke 10: 38-42).

From these verses, we learn that Martha was greatly concerned about the details and the work involved in getting things just right for their honored guest. We can easily understand how concerned she was that every detail should be perfect. To add to Martha’s frustration, her sister Mary was showing no interest in helping her. She was sitting at Jesus’ feet attentive to his every word. Martha did not hesitate to let Jesus know that the preparation and serving were all falling to her. When Martha complained to Jesus of Mary’s lack of support and refusal to get involved in the details of the gathering, Jesus simply and lovingly responded, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part,which shall not be taken away from her.” The Master’s gentle but clear rebuke to Martha offers an important guideline for us to follow in our meetings.

What is truly “needful?”

We can ask ourselves: What is the purpose of getting together? What is important to the spiritual growth of our church and its members? What is adding to the healing atmosphere of our services? How are we reaching out to our community? Are we focusing on that which is “needful?”

When we get ready to attend a church meeting, let’s ask ourselves, “Am I taking with me a Martha thought or a Mary thought to the meeting? If Jesus were in attendance, what would he be saying to me?”

On an organizational level, some church groups are now limiting their official business meetings to one a year for the purpose of electing officers, reviewing their annual budget, etc. Instead, an exchange ofideas on the questions raised above takes place at monthly brown bag meetings (informal supper meetings) starting an hour and a half prior to a Wednesday evening meeting. These unstructured gatherings permit a free sharing of views that can make it easier for the church group to work together and find a consensus position that may then be adopted for the next step in their journey together.

  1. Based on my own branch church experiences, I have found the following to be most efficient in staying focused on what really matters:

    “… seek ye first the kingdom of God (Good/Love-itself!), and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6).

    As I follow-through, accordingly, I am free from the bondage of matter-based thinking (as I change “things into thoughts!”); I gratefully keep that which is committed to my trust (Christian Science – the promised Comforter!); and I rejoice and am glad for each opportunity I have to love God and each other – every day, meetings or no meetings! How blessed to be in a church family!

    There are not two realities. Prayer informs practice. ( Our CS services and meetings give us many chances to practice the Truth of being with/on each other! :-) “Next steps” become “one-God-directed-step-at-a-time,” as limited human solutions yield to the “sustaining infinitude” offering “infinite possibilities.”

    What an awesome God we have and we in that image and likeness!!!

  2. Thank you! I read this blog before attending our annual church meeting. It helped lay a prayer-based foundation for our productive meeting.

  3. As we pray for our meetings, it is always a good idea to focus on that fact that the branch church is Manual-based, and so are its activities (Reading Room, Sunday School, lectures, et al). That is the best barometer. Keeps us from getting down in the gravel and pecking with the chickens.

  4. I served my branch church as treasurer and had the experience of guiding discussion each year on the details of our annual church budget. When I saw discussion bogging down over details, I always declared silently that we were there about Our Father's business. This one prayer usually helped bring consensus to the membership .

    Another issue that has more frequently come up is the question about Manual based directives on the kind of Reading Room we need to support. Do we have a store front location or can we save money and locate the Reading Room in the church? We need to be very clear about always praying first for guidance on what we "think" the Manual says. This becomes an opportunity to love our fellow church members who have a "different" answer. Prayer is the only answer that will help unify the church and bring all members to a consensus. The comments on the purpose of the Committee on Business are very helpful!

  5. CS Church Quarterly Business Meetings for all church members is mainly associated with issues that need review, discusion and a vote from members. Church funding is a main topic for things too be done. All other items are usually specifics about improvement or removing a process not under the church manual as required. Time can be wasted when subjects are brought up that have nothing to do with church business.

  6. It is interesting for all of us that we have one tool for our churches as card without petrol cannot move.
    We have one tootl is the prayer. In all our meeting for our churches w start with prayer.
    The practitioner Jesus as our shower let us hi sexamples in all he did.
    Wew have to follow him.

  7. I am now bed bound and have 24/7 Nurse Aide help from 2 of the nicest & dedicated aides you could find. Both aren't C/Scientist's but one of them likes to hear the C/S Bible Lesson over the I-PAD, and seems to be getting fruitage. I just thought it was aprapo since it reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha.