Aug. 21, 2017 | by Brian Thorstad

In a recent blog, “3 reasons to kick Robert's Rules out of your church,” I wrote about the problems involved in using Henry Martyn Robert’s famous Rules of Orderin churches. 

  • They’re not consistent with the New Testament leadership pattern
  • They’re not consistent with a biblical philosophy of leadership
  • They open the door for ungodly, rebellious behaviors

I was not surprised when I was asked to suggest an alternative. If not Robert’s, then whose rules should rule? 

Here are some suggestions which many churches have found to be conducive to good, God-honoring decision-making:

1. Move your meetings away from your worship space or at least re-configure your worship space.For some reason, people can worship God in their favorite seat, return to it for a business meeting after a 10 minute break and forget that they are in church. In a nanosecond, their focus shifts from worshipping with fellow believers to political defensiveness during a town hall meeting.

Instead, invite your congregation to sit at round (preferably) tables, with your board members disbursed among the group.  Eat a meal together. Allow board members to facilitate conversations about dreams and proposals alongside the folks with whom they just shared apple pie. At some point in the meeting, engage the folks at each table in serious prayer. This format change alone transforms business meetings in many churches.

2. Have your meetings led by the board member who does it best. This may not be the pastor or the board chair. Some people are great at fielding questions, thinking on their feet and not getting defensive. I’m not one of them, so I value this ability.

3. Share Scripture about unity and then share a practical guidelines. This is a good job for the pastor. Explain that this church community doesn't follow Robert’s Rules of Order.Instead, this community conducts meetings like a loving and healthy family, according to Scripture.

You may need to say this at every meeting. If you’re growing, you’ll have people at each meeting who may have never attended a church meeting with this type of vision.

4. Ask those present to make their comments with respect and honor for their brothers and sisters in Christ.If someone is disrespectful, point it out. Bullies and ungodly people posing as church pillars need to be exposed. You will be respected for this action. One timely rebuke might change the culture of your meetings forever.

5. Hold people to the pattern of Matthew 18.In other words, business meetings are not the place for the initial confrontation of sin. “Grandstanders” love to by-pass Jesus’ words and rebuke their leaders in public. Church leaders do not need to tolerate this.

6. Let people know that all motions come from the leadership, not from the floor. Tell them that their suggestions will be taken seriously by the leaders in their subsequent board meetings. But don't let anyoneintroduce a new proposal that is voted on at the meeting.

7. Give people a written agenda, so they know what’s coming.Churches are like horses, they don’t like to be spooked.  If you stray from your agenda, its value will be lost and trust will be eroded.

8. Open and close the meeting with prayer, not motions. Motions tell people that you’re following Robert’s Rules, which you’re not.

9. Tell people that there will be time during the meeting for questions and comments.Have all comments be addressed to “the chair.”

Use these suggestions to alter your church decision-making process and create a positive experience for you and your church community. 

Photo source: pexels



Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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