Table, balcony or patio, it doesn’t matter

Last week I and 80 of my closest friends spent the day with Rev. Dr. Gil Rendle. Dr. Rendle is an ordained elder and after serving in local churches has been a full-time consultant for the last 25 years, having worked with the Alban Institute and now the Texas Methodist Foundation.

In the afternoon he talked about “balcony time” and “balcony people.” The gist is that in everyday church life we tend to see what is right in front of us: this week’s worship, the list of things to do, immediate decisions. He emphasized to get a balcony view, to get up high where it’s quiet and take a broader perspective. But don’t go onto the balcony alone. Take those people with you who share a balcony perspective. Who in your congregation thinks about church stuff? Who worries about long-term trends? Who starts conversations with “I have always wondered…”

He warns against using your Administrative Board or Church Council for this purpose. By its very design, the chair of the Worpship Committee is there to represent that specific area and tends to take a worship-centric approach. You need, as he says, to “get the right legs under the right table.” Make sure the legs under the table for this conversation belong to balcony people.

Finally, he says, those legs under that table need to be asking the right questions. In the church there are hundreds of questions with relatively easy questions: What hymns are we singing this week? What color should we paint a room? Will our youth retreat be at Wanake or Aldersgate this year? These are work area questions. Questions for the balcony are what Rendle calls “adaptive questions.” “Why do we have music in worship?” “What is the purpose for us to have a room; how can that room best make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ?” “Is our youth group model a good one or is there a better way to reach this generation?”

A few years ago in this blog I recommended that you take advantage of some potentially quieter months in the summertime. While vacations need to be planned around, many church committees are less active in these months, freeing up key hours for your balcony people to get together.

A series of Monday evening conversations on a shaded patio with the right people and the right questions can go a long way to moving your congregation ahead.

Once Easter is over, start pulling together your balcony people and get some time set aside to get legs under tables, on the balcony or on a patio. Try to have your first conversation by late June and give me a report when you see me at Annual Conference.

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