Why Do We Do It This Way?

“Why do we do it this way?” I was reminded of this question as I looked at the sign-up sheets for the seasonal teams at First Presbyterian, Palatine. Instead of the ordinary committee structure orrotating classes, people sign up to be part of seasonal teams instead. In the traditional committee rotation, a person is nominated and voted into a standing committee of the congregation. The term is usually for three years, with the option of serving another three years (an option that is usually requested!). I wonder, why do we do it this way? When did this process become the norm and when was it written into perpetuity in our Book of Order? Who does this process benefit, and who is harmed or dissuaded by this committee membership system?
The seasonal team structure is very different. Instead of being nominated and elected, people volunteer to be a part of a team. Instead of a three-year cycle, the commitment period is based on the church season. It can be as few as 2 months or as many as 3 months. Then you’re done! A person may sign up for another team at that time or take time off.
Seasonal teams are not a solution for every church. But this type of planning represents thinking that breaks away from a traditional path. In the book, A Beautiful Constraint, Morgan and Barden write, “Today’s approaches are in effect yesterday’s approaches, based on what was appropriate then, not necessarily now. They are not simply processes, but paths made up of self-reinforcing bundles of beliefs, assumptions, behaviors, whose nature and underlying rationale may no longer be visible, and rarely questioned.”
As we slowly emerge into a post-pandemic future, how can we separate the bundles of beliefs and assumptions we depend on to do the work of the church and the presbytery and perhaps find a more relevant and meaningful way? How can we challenge the behaviors we assume are ordinary in our schools or care facilities? What would it mean to incorporate what we have learned during the pandemic into ways of doing things differently and doing different things in our future together? Let’s begin to question our assumptions as we become the presbytery God is calling us to be.
Rev. Craig M. Howard