Not long ago, we asked a board member of a Protestant church, “What is it like to serve on your church board?” After a pause, she replied, “It’s pretty much like the times I have to go to the DMV to get my driver’s license renewed. It takes too long, I’m sitting in a dull, dim room, and I am so glad when it’s finally over! But I have to do it.”
The time is long past for this to be the norm for any church board. What a great time – powered by Easter hope – to raise our expectations about the experience of church board service. Jeffrey Harrison’s poem “Renewal” begins:
At the Department of Motor Vehicles
to renew my driver’s license, I had to wait
two hours on one of those wooden benches
like pews in the church of Latter Day
Meaninglessness, where there is no
stained glass (no windows at all, in fact),
no incense other than stale cigarette smoke
emanating from the clothes of those around me,
and no sermon, just an automated female voice
calling numbers over a loudspeaker.
And one by one the members of our sorry
congregation shuffled meekly up to the pitted
altar to have our vision tested or to seek
redemption for whatever wrong turn we’d taken,
or pay indulgences, or else be turned away
as unworthy of piloting our own journey.
But when I paused to look around, using my numbered
ticket as a bookmark, it was as if the dim
fluorescent light had been transformed
to incandescence. The face of the Latino guy
in a ripped black sweatshirt glowed with health,
and I could tell that the sulking white girl
accompanied by her mother was brimming
with secret excitement to be getting her first license,
already speeding down the highway, alone,
with all the windows open, singing.
On Easter evening, two of Jesus’ followers were headed to Emmaus when Jesus – yet to be recognized – came alongside and journeyed with them. At the end of their encounter, Luke 24 records:
31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
The girl getting her license turns from sulking to singing.
The lost disciples, encountering Jesus, find their hearts burning.
This is a high – but completely appropriate – set of expectations for your church board, every time you gather!
In what ways does your church board meeting resemble a visit to the DMV? What do you say? What would your fellow board members say?
What allows the narrator in Harrison’s poem to start seeing the people in the DMV differently?
How can your church board turn a “DMV” experience into a “road to Emmaus” experience the next time you meet?