[My name is Jack Williams and this is my story of being involved in the third Thursday of the month at my church]
“Oh man, today is the third Thursday of the month; I hate the third Thursday of the month. Why you ask? Simple. The third Thursday of the month is my churches “Board Meeting” and I have to say it is one day I never look forward too. I would much rather have an arm ripped off by a bunch of man-eating aliens then go to this meeting. You see, I have been a member of this Board for two years now and over that time the third Thursday of the month has become a time of disappointment, confusion, depression and frustration. Every time the third Thursday of the month comes around all I can think of is how much I hate the third Thursday of the month. Each and every third Thursday of the month I have tried to think of a way out of the meeting, but I am always brought back to the promise I made my Pastor. I promised him I would make every meeting, and add my two cents; except my two cents always seemed to be looked at as half-cents and was always tossed back at me. I have a felling today is going to be no better; it saddens me to think I have to go to a meeting where my views are seen as “against the church.”
What is the promise I made the Pastor? Well, I am young, actually I am not that young, but I am far younger than all the others at the third Thursday of the month. I’m in my late 30’s and everyone else is in their late 60’s or older. My Pastor felt having me join the third Thursday of the month might bring new life to the meetings and stir the younger people in the church to get involved. His hope was that if I was seen as an member of the third Thursday of the month, more young people would come to the church and we would grow, but that has not coming to pass. When I first committed to the third Thursday of the month everyone was excited about me joining, but that soon turned to resentment over my ideas and younger people saw this and did not get involved. The third Thursday of the month soon turned from great time of moving the church to the next level to a time of disappointment and discouragement where my ideas would be ignored.
Well, it’s 6:45 pm and I have to get out the door if I am going to make the meeting on time. I quickly help my wife wash dishes; give her and children a kiss good night because I won’t be there when they go to bed, and that drives me crazy but I head to the door. As I walk to the door I grab my keys and my Bible, though I am not really sure why I keep bringing the Bible we never read from it. One time I remember asking the Chief Elder why we never read the Bible at the meeting and I was told, “We are here to do the business of the church and we don’t have time for a Bible study;” but I still bring it anyway.
As I get into my car to drive to the church, my stomach turns over what we will be talking about. This third Thursday of the month we have a full plate; on the agenda is our need to review the daycare ministry, appoint someone to put together a vacation Bible school, approve some new praise songs, discuss the coming Elders Retreat, determine how much we need to cut from the budget to make ends meet, approve Sunday School teachers, and develop cell groups to help the church grow. This all drives me crazy because the church is getting smaller and smaller and all we do is create new programs to attract people, but it never works. As I pull into the church parking lot, my head is spinning with all the “stuff” we need to talk about, and none of them are important in my mind. I would love for us to talk about being greener, being out in the community in positive and different ways and being the heart and mind of Christ to the world around us. But I know that no one else will want to discuss those topics, of think of different ways of doing church. So, I park my car and head into the building.”
THE FOLLOWING HAPPENS AT THE THIRD THURSDAY OF THE MONTH:
[All the Elders in the church are waiting in the Board Room, Jack walks in]
Chief Elder: Jack, glad you made it. How are you? How are Sue and the kids? [Not waiting for a reply, he adds] We have a great deal to talk about today so we had best get into the business. [With that, the Chief Elder calls the meeting to order] OK, let’s get down to business. Has everyone read the minutes from last meeting? [The other Elders shake their heads] Good, all in favor of approving the minutes say “Yea.” [With that, all the Elders except Jack, followed the Chief Elder’s lead and said “Yea”] Good, motion carries. What’s next on the agenda?
Jack: wait, I have a question about the minutes from last month.
Chief Elder: Too late Jack, we already approved the minutes. We are moving along to the next item on the agenda, we have a lot to do today and we need to move fast. I am sure we all want to get home at a decent hour.
Jack: But I would like to address some missing points in the agenda. The discussion and decision we had about recycling is not in the minutes. We agreed to take baby step and put a recycling bin in the front of the church for people to put in the bulletins after service.
Chief Elder: I know, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We talked about it more after the meeting when you went home and decided that we would not carry out the plan. We all felt we had no one to take the lead on this and it would be a waste of time. Besides, we all felt that global warming was a hoax and the reality is we want people to take the bulletins home with them.
Jack: What lead? All we need do is put a bin the front of the church and the Greg [the janitor] would put the contents in the recycling canister for pick-up. It’s free and it will help the environment. Besides, people leave the bulletins in the pews after service and that makes more work for Greg.
Chief Elder: Well, it’s not truly free Jack, nothing is free. We have to pay the janitor to pick up the bin and put it out. Remember we are cutting costs, and we will be talking about that later in the meeting. Bob, what is next on the agenda?
Bob: Our daycare ministry.
Chief Elder: [Cutting Jack off]. We are moving on Jack. IF you have an issue with the way the church runs we can talk about it after the meeting, but right now we have a great deal of business to go over. So please, be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Jack: [Looking disappointed, but realizes he would not win the battle]. Fine.
Chief Elder: Good, let’s keep moving forward. I asked the daycare ministry director to come and give us a report on the day care ministry. Bob, can you ask her to join us? [With that, Bob gets up, walks over to the closed door and asks Linda, the daycare director to come in. Linda sits down] Linda, can you share with us what is happening in the daycare ministry?
Linda: Sure Bob. Well, to be honest we’re not doing that great. First, we’re down in registrations. Currently we’re 30% empty in infant and toddlers, 40% empty in early childhood and 35% empty in our after school program.
Chief Elder: Interesting, those are harsh numbers. Are we losing money in the daycare ministry?
Linda: Yes, we’re losing about $10,000 a month. We have enough in savings to cover another six months, but after that we will be asking the church for help in covering payroll and meeting expenses.
Chief Elder: Thank you Linda for sharing that report. We are all very thankful for your commitment to the ministry. You can leave now as we discuss this matter. I will be in contact with you when we have made a discussion. [With that, Linda starts leaves the meeting]
Jack: Linda, wait. [Jack looks at the Chief Elder] Since Linda is the expert, shouldn’t she stay and be part of the discussion? I have a bunch of questions to ask her about what we charge, other daycares in the area and more.
Chief Elder: Jack, Linda is not an Elder of the church. This is our responsibility, not hers. We will decide what happens to the daycare ministry and let Linda know our findings. Thank you Linda, you can go now. [With that, Linda leaves the room] OK, let’s open the floor for discussion. I have my opinion, but I will save that for last.
Jack: I have a ton of questions to ask and I think Linda needs to be here to help answer them.
Chief Elder: Jack, we have already addressed her being in this meeting. Let’s work on getting that debt under control. So, let’s open the floor and talk about this mess.
Jack: But how can we do that? How can we honestly make a decision without the information we need?
Elder One: We can increase the fees. [The other Elders shake their heads]
Elder Two: We should cut staff. [The other Elders shake their heads] I am not sure if you notice, but whenever I am here there are at least two teachers in each room and one is just standing around.
Elder Three: I heard that Linda hires family and friends to work in the daycare ministry. She turned it into her own little business and not one connected to the church. I know before I retired managers could not hire family. I forget what that’s called, but I know it is wrong.
Elder One: Nepotism.
Elder Three: What?
Elder One: Hiring family and friends is called nepotism and it is wrong in any business. But Chief Elder, what are your views?
Chief Elder: Nepotism is not the issue. We need to keep the daycare ministry going. We use the daycare ministry to attract people and bring new families to the church. I suggest we take a look at the budget and see what we can cut to keep the daycare ministry afloat. [With that, he opens a book with figures and starts to go over the church budget]. We can cut mission giving, that seems high; we can cut planned salary increases for the pastoral staff; we can even take money from the youth program and the young adult program to ensure the daycare ministry stays afloat. I suggest we form a subcommittee to look at places we can shift funds from to keep the daycare ministry alive.
Jack: I’m not sure I would agree. Are we keeping alive a dying ministry that has served its purpose? Should we spend more time encouraging others to develop new and different ministries that meet the needs of the people? We need to be connected more to the community to see what the needs are, and not just keep doing what we have always done. We need to empower people to fill the needs of others. If we are not the catalyst of change, we are simply part of the problem. We truly need to be the mind of God and be part of the community. We need to bring the heart of God into the community and love people for who they are.
Chief Elder: Jack, I think you are being a bit childish. I am not sure you grasp the meaning of the church. We need the daycare ministry to help bring people into the church. Our goal is not to be part of the community, but to change the community and we need to do that through the kids. Besides, if we can get the kids, we can get the parents and that will help us meet our budget.
While the meeting continued, I closed down and did not add another word. I simply allowed the third Thursday of the month to come to a close. As the third Thursday of the month came to a close, I saw the writing on the wall. I knew I could never change the minds of the Elders, and in our church, where the Elders walked, the people followed. So I did the only thing I could think of; on a small piece of paper I wrote the words “I quit” and passed it over to the Chief Elder. He read the note, looked over at me and nodded his head as to say, “Good, I think that is the best thing.” That night I drove home, and started to think of another church in the area that could understand my heart – it saddens me to say, but I could not think of any, but at least my third Thursday of the month was free.