Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Session— when and why we meet

From Pastor Ed… (for Sunday, 4/15/2012)

Not long after I arrived in the fall, our Session— the body of all of our Elders, gathered to function as overseers of the church— settled into a regular pattern for our meetings. I thought it would be helpful to describe that pattern, and discuss why we meet as we do. First, though, a little background…

You may or may not know that the Session has met almost weekly for much of the life of our congregation. If you've been a part of another church that was elder-led, you may know that this is much more frequent than is typical. Our denomination's Book of Church Order requires that a Session meet at least quarterly; most of the Sessions I have worked with met about monthly. I've known of Sessions that met weekly for a season, but have never known of one that met weekly on a standing basis— until now!

It is a great blessing to be a part of our Session, in many ways, not least the willingness to meet regularly together. At one point not long ago, Marcie commented to me: "y'all are getting so much done!" She's right— and it wouldn't be possible were we meeting only monthly. That we gather for about an hour and a half every Wednesday morning enables us to accomplish much for Christ's Church and Kingdom.

Every week, the Session spends significant time praying for the specific needs of the church. The prayer list we use is compiled of prayer requests that have been submitted via the registration cards on Sundays, that I have collected through visitation or other conversations, and that have been gathered by way of the prayer request letters that go to every member. We devote the first part of our meeting each Wednesday to lifting up these prayer requests.

What happens next varies from week to week. While we have shifted our schedule around to address pressing matters, generally this is the pattern that we follow:

On the first and third Wednesdays of the month we take up "business" matters. This includes shepherding reports, discussion of the needs for discipleship and discipline in individual members' circumstances, and coordination of congregational care and ministry together. This is also the time when we talk about particular plans for doing ministry better, hear from various teams and committees about the work they are doing, and determine how to coordinate the various aspects of ministry together. In typical recent "business" Session meetings, we have approved the final 2012 budget, heard a report from the Missions Committee, approved plans for the preaching schedule for the summer, assigned new member candidates to be interviewed (and heard reports on those interviews), approved a communication to our Presbytery, and discussed how we would care for certain members in their needs.

On the second Wednesday of the month, we've been discussing a book together. Currently we are discussing Dr. Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Worship: letting the Gospel shape our practice. This book and discussion is presenting great opportunities for us to think in an abstract way about our worship, and also practically about how we do it well, and how we can do it better. All of us have appreciated and benefited from these discussions, and I expect that we'll continue to do this for the foreseeable future. I'd like to read across a several general categories over time, including theology (like what we are reading now), personal growth and spiritual formation, and the pastoral practice of our office.

On the fourth Wednesday, the Session focuses on "big picture" questions. For the past several months, those questions have focused on the "next steps" discussions that we've also been having at other levels congregationally. As we begin to bring those discussions to a close over the coming months, other big picture questions remain prominent: How does our congregation best minister to those around us? What are the right long-term goals for us, and how are those to be measured? Are there specific areas of ministry (worship, discipleship, youth/family ministry, etc.) that we should re-evaluate according to biblical convictions? What is the role of our congregation in shaping the culture around us? And so on. Having a particular day for these more abstract, objective discussions is a great benefit, as it protects us from neglecting important questions while also keeping us from being distracted by them at other times.

Finally, when there is a fifth Wednesday, the Session invites the staff and Diaconate to join with us for a morning given entirely to prayer. We include the prayer requests mentioned above, and also spend extended time in prayer for the ministries of our church, as well as for matters related to our community, our presbytery and denomination, and our ministry among those. We've had two of these since I've been here (and another is coming in May), and they have been great, sweet times in fellowship.

I'll say this again: I'm so grateful and blessed to be part of this Session, and excited about all that God is doing in our midst. Please join me in praying for the continuing work of the Elders our Lord has appointed over this congregation.

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