The Indispensable Prelude

For the last several weeks, we have been considering what could make church board meetings feel like church, instead of all the other meetings in our lives. Among the values shared:

The monthly church meeting as an invitation to depth, nurture, and discipleship.

If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.

We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention.

Trust, depth, and joy are the foundation – and the fruits – of a church board.

We have a choice of either constantly worrying about broken fences or digging a deep, refreshing well.

It’s not about more information.

Who or what is teaching you what to do when the certain thing doesn’t happen?

As an alternative to what most of us know as the “monthly meeting” – it’s time to liberate ourselves from the shallow and transactional – and go deeper with God and one another. Alongside scripture, other kinds of texts (including images and videos) can help move a group quickly–and deeply–to reflect. Create space for that reflection by introducing a short complex reading or image and asking a few open questions about it. Look for objects that are resonant rather than directly relevant to the “business” of the group and that invite a range of interpretations, freeing people to bring different perspectives.

Try something like this agenda:
1. Open with prayer

2. Read together Matthew 5:1-12 – “The Beatitudes”
Discuss: Father Greg Boyle comments that the Beatitudes would be more
accurately described, not by the word “blessed” but by saying “you are in
the right place if…”. What does it mean to you to read the Beatitudes in
this way?
(For example: “You are in the right place if…you are poor in spirit.”
“You are in the right place if…you are hungering and thirsting for

With that way of reading, which Beatitudes do you like?
With which do you struggle?
Which make you most uncomfortable as you think of our church?

3. Consider this quote from Parker Palmer:
“The spiritual life is lived in a balance of paradoxes,
and the humility that enables us to hear the truth of others
must stand in creative tension with the faith
that empowers us to speak our own.”

What does it mean to live in ‘a balance of paradoxes?’
How important is balance to the spiritual life?
What does humility look like right now for us as a congregation?
What does faithful speech look like right now for us as a congregation?

Take 45 minutes for that opening to the meeting, maybe divide the board into small groups for part of it, THEN “get down to business.”

Making reflection the primary work of the group won’t immediately transform every board meeting into a moment of paradise, but over several months this practice will change the tone and substance of discussion. It will dig a deeper well.

Article Co-written By:





Elizabeth Lynn has founded two innovative programs, the Center for Civic Reflection and the Institute for Leadership and Service at Valparaiso University, both aimed at expanding moral imagination for civic leadership.






Mark Ramsey, Executive Director of Macedonian Ministry, has served for more than 30 years as a parish pastor and chaired a lot of church board meetings.


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