All groups, whether they are churches, families, businesses, or connection groups, need to have agreed-upon ways for airing concerns. If they don’t have such a format when conflict occurs it has an unnecessarily explosive quality to it. Our church doesn’t have any such issue now, but since conflict in churches is normal (as it is for any intimate group) I want to be sure you know the avenues for getting your message across.
You can always call, e-mail, or set up a meeting with me. My experience is that when people share their concerns, visions, and feedback it usually has a positive effect.
You can also always call, e-mail, or meet with an elder. I’m concerned that this year we have only four elders instead of the normal six, so our informal network of listeners is smaller.
3. Clerk of Session
The Clerk of Session is the elder to whom you should address formal written communication. When you have a concern or idea the best thing to do is to write it down so all the elders can see it. Any member may speak before the elders, but bring that request through the Clerk.
4. Congregational Meeting
In the Presbyterian system the congregation makes only 5 decisions: election of officers, election of pastors, pastor’s terms of call, purchase or sale of property, and certain decision-making processes (such as whether there should be a board of Trustees or Deacons). So while you can speak at congregational meetings, it might not give you a way to bring up a specific idea or concern.
5. Town Meetings
Elders may invite the congregation to meet for open discussion and it’s wise to have such a format. Decision-making authority remains with the elders on most decisions, but ideas that are prayerfully considered and well communicated stand a good chance of being put into action.
One of the many things I value about being Protestant is that the authority structure in our churches isn’t hierarchical. We affirm “the priesthood of all believers” and that God speaks effectively through all faithful members. Our unity isn’t based on mute submission, as it can be in hierarchical churches. There may be more visible conflict in our churches, but this is a normal aspect of any healthy organization.