How can you turn a routine, boring business meeting into something more celebratory and faith-filled? Tom Tumblin describes how the awarding of an annual servant leadership award turned a congregation’s annual meeting into an inspiring reminder of how the hand of God is at work in their faith community.
One of my favorite memories from a church where I served was the annual church conference. Most pastors will recoil at the idea of enjoying the annual meeting, but our staff had reengineered what had often been a boring business meeting into a high celebration of faithfulness in the congregation. We still held the necessary votes for new leaders and staff salaries, but those items were limited to ten minutes or so in the agenda. The bulk of our energy was focused on a “This is Your Life” experience in a pleasant dinner setting. Ministry area leaders were invited to identify one individual in their area who exemplified the mission and values of the congregation. That person was then nominated for a servant leadership award that became highly coveted because only those who excelled at loving Christ and serving others qualified for consideration.
As the people of God, we are called to applaud the goodness of God when it shows up through God’s people.
The pastor opened the evening with an inspiring reminder of our covenant as coworkers in the kingdom of God, dependent on the Holy Spirit and one another for the ministry God had given us. Then, one by one, ministry area leaders would first describe, and then name, the recipient of the annual award for their area. As the description was read, the audience would begin to quietly guess who was to be honored. They would look around the room, trying to identify the person being named. Often recipients’ eyes would begin to well up as they realized they were to receive the award. Once the ministry area leader announced the name, the crowd would join in wonderful applause and thanksgiving for the nominee. The annual celebrations of God’s graciousness through those honored stoked the faith of everyone in the room.
It’s no accident that a portion of the tithe designated in the early Israelite worship, passed down to us, includes the party. God knows we need to celebrate. We are designed to revel in the goodness of our creating and sustaining Lord. As the people of God, we mark God’s character with worship and thanksgiving, honoring the One who redeems us and allows us to participate in eternal purpose. In the same way, we are called to applaud the goodness of God when it shows up through God’s people.
How will the congregation “provoke one another to love and good deeds” according to Hebrews 10:24 (NRSV)? Where will there be occasions for encouraging one another in faithfulness? How will the people be able to watch and see the hand of God at work around the faith community?
Create openings for honoring committed paid and unpaid staff who embrace the call of God. In public and private ways, build up the saints for the work of the ministry. Slow down enough to bask in the wonders of the Spirit’s handiwork, thereby planting seeds of hope and confidence in God’s future.
This article is taken from Thomas F. Tumblin’s AdMinistry: The Nuts and Bolts of Church Administration (Abingdon Press, 2017.) The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.
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