THIS IS OUR PRESBYTERY
Last week I wrote about how you could sample the spiritual life of a congregation by making use of phone conversations with a sample poll of its members. Today I want to suggest that a similar technique could be used by a presbytery to build a snapshot of the spiritual leadership of your presbytery.
Take a presbytery directory that includes ordained pastors, commissioned ruling elders, specialized ministries, and retired pastors, and Christian educators. In each category, count down the list and select the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, etc. until you have completed the list. Your results will be a ten percent sampling of each category.
DEVELOP A SET OF FOUR TOPICS
Identify a set of four topics that you will use in conversation with all of your poll sample. The topics should be designed in order to build a picture of the spiritual health of your Presbyterian churches as reflected in those called to offer spiritual leadership.
Sample questions might be:
- What are the signs of spiritual vitality that you see reflected in the healthiest churches in the presbytery?
- What spiritual gift do you believe, if emphasized, would most contribute to the spiritual health of the whole presbytery?
- What ministry or coordinated action might the churches agree to that would strengthen the witness of Presbyterians in our area?
- What areas of training and or mentoring is most needed within our presbytery? Are there ways that you could contribute to advancing that possibility?
You can come up with other questions but the main objective is to take the temperature of the presbytery and the possible paths to its spiritual growth.
HOW TO CONDUCT THE POLL
If the presbytery has sufficient staff, there could be real value in having them spread out the assignments and engage in phone conversations with the identified participants. Another alternative would be to have the COM or a committee that focuses on the spiritual life accept the responsibility. A third, and I think creative, possibility would be to ask a group of churches to nominate an elder to serve on a task force to complete the conversation.
Once you have identified who is going to make the calls, compose a letter explaining the process and send it to each of the poll participants identified. Depending on the size of your sample, you might want to space out the letters so that each recipient is called within a week of receiving the letter. Make sure that the questions to be discussed are clearly identified in the letter so that they can reflect ahead of time.
Ask your task force to make their calls, keep careful notes, and compose a summary of what they have heard. Gather the callers together to compose a summary of the entire poll to be shared with the presbytery.
PREPARING THE AUDIENCE
Prior to the presbytery gathering at which the information will be discussed, send out the summary so that people will be able to see the results ahead of time. Ideally the sessions of all the congregations will have had a chance to digest the information.
The discussion should be designed so that participants not only hear the material but have an opportunity to respond with suggestions as to what the implications are for future actions of the presbytery.
THIS COULD BE THE BEGINNING OF SEVERAL EFFORTS TO ENGAGE THE WHOLE PRESBYTERY IN AN ONGOING CONVERSATION.