Dear readers: Once again we will be traveling this summer. We love to travel, but when you make long journeys they involve time zones and sometimes inconsistent access to the Internet. We will be traveling through some remote country at the beginning of our trip and later flying to Japan. That means that although I will continue to write daily journal posts, they may not appear on the Internet in the regular way that occurs when I am at home. You can also check out the Adventures of Edward Bear which will be updated for each new location we visit. Thanks for your patience.

Working with groups of people is one of the joys and one of the challenges of the life of a pastor. I am firmly convinced that the work of the church is always better when conducted by groups of people. The tasks of discipleship are simply too big for individuals. We are called as a community and we are called to community. That means that we, who are called to the pastoral role, must invest significant time and energy in building up the community. And that means a lot of meetings.

In our congregation we cut down on the number of meetings in the summer, but there are some groups that simply need to meet regularly and who can’t take a summer break. Our Department of Stewardship and Budget meets every month to review the church financial statements, monitor expenses and plan for upcoming programs and projects. Today will be my last day in the office until after our vacation, but it will be a long day with plenty of meetings. In addition to Vacation Bible School which has its concluding session this evening, I have four meetings today. The first begins at 8 am and the last is over the dinner hour, so for a while this evening I will be going back and forth between my duties as Vacation Bible School storyteller and pastor at a finance meeting.

Some days it seems like my life simply has too many meetings. Over the years I have participated in a lot of reconfigurations, downsizings, and tar-thinkings of how congregations organize themselves for their work. Each time we take about having fewer meetings, meetings that are more focused and decreasing the need for so many members to serve on boards and committees. Each time that happens it seems like the congregation finds ways to make things more complex. Back in 1998, after a multi-year study, our congregation voted a new congregation with four departments reflecting the five priorities of our congregation: Worship, Education, Mission and Pastoral Care. Each department would have six members. Before that new constitution had been in place for a full year, amendments were proposed to increase the number of departments and the number of people on the departments. The natural progression of any organization, it seems, is to get more people involved in structures that increase in complexity.

In each generation there are a few church leaders who really love meetings. It has been interesting to watch the different styles of church leaders over the years. Some are quick to appoint new task forces and committees. Others try to avoid adding meetings to the already full schedule. Some are careful about minutes and agendas and try to keep meetings focused and on task. Others are less so. Most active church members have experienced meetings where the work is done and the meeting over in a few minutes and other meetings that stretch on and on for hours accomplishing the same amount or less work than a quick 10-minute meeting can do.

I don’t know how many times, over the years, that I’ve been at a meeting that had a small task and where the work was done in a few minutes, but the members lingered and talked. It is a rare church meeting that actually results in the room being empty of people in less than an hour.

If you do the math, four meetings today means that if I worked an 8-hour day, half of my time would be in meetings. It doesn’t really work that way because my days are generally longer than 8 hours and definitely so during Vacation Bible School and some of my meetings will overlap and run into other meetings. Still, a significant percentage of my time is spent in meetings.

Another thing that often occurs in the church is that there will be a few folks who are focused on only one task. A particular meeting may be the most important event of their day. They come focused on what they want to accomplish and sometimes are unaware that others have a lot more things going on in their lives. Having only one meeting in a day is such a rare occurrence for me that I sometimes forget that the person who keeps talking and talking is at their sole social event of the day. They are lonely and need to spend time with others.

I know this journal entry contains a lot of complaining, but I don’t mean to do so. Committees and groups are essential to the life of the church. We are in the business of building community and community forms when we work together. I am not opposed to meetings. I convene a fair amount of them myself. I do, however, want to keep the purpose of each meeting clear so that people feel that the time they invest in group work is a good use of their time. Our members are generous with their time and as stewards, we are called to not waste that generosity.

So I will pray for a bit of patience and be prepared for more meetings. then I’ll head out on vacation and have a short time without meetings. By the time the vacation is over, I’ll be ready to dive back in and attend a few more meetings. Perhaps I should pray for a bit of grace and compassion for others while I’m at it.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!