- Does your church still have regular Voters Assembly meetings? Are they productive? Or do they tend to be an exercise of futility causing untold frustration?
- Several years ago, Rev. Erwin Kostizen, Vice-President of the Michigan District-LCMS, shared with me a very helpful balloting procedure which his congregation, Messiah Lutheran Church, Clio, Michigan, used to replace the “typical” congregational voters assembly as held in many LCMS congregations.
- After presenting this procedure to the leaders of my congregation, we discussed the possible benefits of a balloting procedure, some of which are listed below.
- 1) It makes it easier for all members of the congregation to vote;
- 2) It gives a greater participation in the voting process;
- 3) It prevents decisions made my a minority of the congregation who happen to be a majority at a voters meeting;
- 4) It gives members four weeks to consider the proposals and to share their concerns (express their “voice”) with the congregational leaders or at a Congregational Forum;
- 5) It prevents sudden, unplanned or unexpected decisions from occurring at a congregational level;
- 6) It eliminates the “legalism” of who’s a voter and who’s not;
- 7) It helps eliminate the stumbling over Roberts Rules Of Order which can occur in Voters Meetings, especially in an antagonistic environment;
- 8) It helps to keep the congregation as a whole out of the day-to-day business of micro-managing the church,
- 9) It enhances the roles of the Church Council/Board of Directors and allows leaders in the respective boards to lead with greater freedom; and
- 10) In general, it appears to foster a greater sense of unity in the congregation by avoiding the uncomfortably inappropriate outbursts which can happen in Voters meetings.
- Our Two-Year Trial Implementation
- Agreeing that it would be a good thing, our leaders modified the model presented to us and presented it to the congregation for an initial two-year trial period. The congregation overwhelmingly accepted the two-year trial period.
- Our experience in this two years trial period was positive. In fact, it has been a remarkable success and has been widely accepted by our congregation. The congregation has since incorporated this permanent change to the current Constitution and Bylaws with continued success. Perhaps you might consider this for your congregation, too. This concept can easily be adopted to suit the voting membership and procedural requirements in your congregation.
- A friendly word of advice: Don’t have a “heavy” item for the very first use of this procedure. Select a “lighter” issue to avoid arousal of normal fear of change.
- An Important Consideration
- Perhaps the most important aspect of any decision making process is to allow for the “voice” of others to be expressed and considered. Whether affirming or dissenting, the appropriate enabling people’s voice to be heard is a key aspect of encouraging congregational health.
- Squelching or silencing other’s voice often increases the potential for conflict. The “Congregational Forum” and the four week period between the time of introduction to the time of adoption are intended to address this issue. Of course, it’s not just having the procedures in place that makes the voice heard. It’s the attitude of the leaders and the manner in which these leaders address the (sometimes inappropriate) input of others that is most critical.
- Don’t let the voice go unattended to!
- Don’t be afraid to hear from all sides of the debate. Indeed, more than one pastor has been surprised by a barrage of apparent negative responses followed by a unanimous positive vote by those same individuals! God does work in mysterious ways…and isn’t that the ministry?!
- Thomas F. Fischer
A. Voting Membership: Any communicant member of this congregation who has attained eighteen (18) years of age shall have the right to vote in the meetings of the Voters Assembly unless they are currently under church discipline.
B. Voters’ Meetings: Voters’ Meetings, in their present form, be replaced by a new balloting procedure. The Congregational Forum will serve as an opportunity for congregational members to discuss the ballot item(s) at hand at a Congregational Forum to be held as part of a Church Council meeting. The Church Council will present the ballot item(s) at this meeting for discussion and will consider any additional input for the ballot in preparation of the final ballot.
C. Ballot Procedure:
- The sample ballot will be distributed in all congregational mail boxes at least two Sundays prior to the regular Council Meeting and Congregational Forum in which it will be discussed.
- The sample ballot will be presented and discussed with those present at the Congregational Forum.
- Any proposed changes will be considered by the Council. The approved changes will be printed and distributed in the mailboxes the next Sunday.
- The final ballot will be distributed by the Elders on the second Sunday after the Congregational Forum.
- Every communicant member present desiring a ballot will be given a ballot based on the current membership roster. Ballots must be immediately returned at the time the vote is taken. No absentee or late ballots will be accepted.
- Ballots will be counted by the Trustees who will report the results to the Pastor, the Secretary, and the Congregational Chairman. Results will be printed in the next Sunday’s bulletin and entered in the minutes of the next regular Council meeting.
- Completed ballots will be placed in the custody of the Church Council. Without Council action, ballots will automatically be destroyed after a period of thirty (30) days.
D. If necessary, a special voters meeting may be called as described in the Bylaws.