By Nancy Kauffmann
“Bible bopper” was a phrase I learned while doing Clinical Pastoral Education in a hospital setting. It referred to a chaplain who would swoop into a patient’s room for a few minutes, ask them how they were doing, then “bop” them over the head with a scripture and a prayer and quickly leave the room, leaving the patient somewhat stunned about what had happened.
Since then I have also thought of “Bible boppers” occasionally during devotions in a committee meeting. I remember serving on a committee where members shared the responsibility of leading devotions. We all had the tendency to not think about our assignment until the last minute. Many devotional times started out with, “I forgot I was leading devotions until I was about to leave for the meeting.” Often it felt like we were bopping each other over the head with something called devotions.
When the “devotions” were over it became one item to check off the agenda and we moved on to the next thing. This approach suggests that devotions are irrelevant to the meeting. So much so, that a member arriving late seems as prepared as those who arrive on time.
When very little thought is given to the importance of the spiritual formation of a committee, then devotions become nothing more than a perfunctory activity – less important, say, than taking attendance. A stewardship committee, then, is reduced to finding ways to meet the budget; a Christian formation committee is reduced to simply finding enough Sunday school teachers, the worship committee is reduced to planning the next worship service and so on.
It robs the committee, and therefore the church, of a deeper relationship with God. It also robs the members of energy and the potential for what God might do in and through the committee.
However, when devotions are used appropriately, a committee is empowered. I was fortunate enough to experience one committee chair that reshaped the understanding of devotions as an important and vital task, foundational to the committee’s ability to do its work. Here are some of the seemingly small, but spiritually significant steps she used to integrate devotions into our work as a committee:
- She included the mission statement of the church and the task assigned to the committee at the top of each agenda for easy reference and as a reminder of the committee’s work.
- She sent the agenda out a week in advance and invited the members to pray over the agenda.
- She began each meeting with a time of silence to allow members to catch their breath before moving into the agenda.
- She used Dwelling in the Word as a way to invite us to study a passage of scripture, reflect on it and listen to what God might be saying to us at that particular time and then pray for the work ahead
- She paused the meeting and called us to prayer during a difficult discussion where there was disagreement or when it was not clear what the best decision would be.
- She invited a couple of members from the congregation to pray regularly for the committee and especially during the scheduled meeting time.
- She ended each meeting with a prayer of thanks to God and a blessing for the members.
As a result members came prepared for the meetings. The spiritual and the mental health of the committee improved. Meetings became more focused. And all of us developed a much more clear understanding of our purpose which in turn created more energy and creativity as we worked together.
Here are three resources you might find helpful as you think about the spiritual health of your committee.
Setting the Agenda: Meditations for the Organization’s Soul edited by Edgar Stoesz and Rick Stiffney
Leadership and Listening: Spiritual Foundations for Church Governance by Donald E. Zimmer
Listening to God: Spiritual Formation in the Congregation by John Ackerman