Friday, November 13, 2009

Presbyfest cancellation

Last week I received an E-mail saying that Presbyfest was cancelled due to low registrations. Presbyfest is a bi-annual lay leadership event put on by the Presbytery I serve—the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.

Presbyfest is one of my favorite events that our Presbytery does. I enjoy it because it is one of the few local, lay leadership training events that brings Presbyterians together. I’ve participated in Presbyfest almost every time it’s been offered; I always try to bring a group of people from the church I serve to Presbyfest; I’ve been a workshop leader for Presbyfest in the past and was scheduled to be a workshop leader this year.

Last December I was asked to serve on the Presbyfest leadership team. I was grateful to be asked, but I declined the offer. I’ve decided to curtail significantly my Presbytery involvement for three years. I figure that being the Organizing Pastor of a Presbyterian Church qualifies as significant Presbytery service.

As a leader I am an incurable optimist. When events happen I always look at the bright side and usually spin them from a positive perspective. However, I try to balance my own positive outlook with the facts. Sometimes the facts don’t lead to a positive and upbeat outlook. I remember earlier this fall at Chain of Lakes when we had 12 people attend our second Alpha session after 38 attended the Alpha Celebration Dinner. I was disappointed—and diplomatically shared my disappointment with our Emerging Community.

I’m very disappointed that Presbyfest was cancelled.

My intent is not to point fingers or enter into the blame game. I know many of the people who serve on the Presbyfest leadership team, and I know that they are effective leaders.

One element of an effective organization is to be a learning organization. In his book, “The Fifth Discipline,” Peter Senge wrote the book about learning organizations. I didn’t read the entire book, but I strive to implement the practices of a learning organization at Chain of Lakes After every significant event we do I try to ask the question, “what have we learned from this event?” After our second Alpha event our worship team at Chain of Lakes came to the conclusion that we at Chain of Lakes weren’t as far along in developing the faith habits of our people as we thought we were. We changed the original plan that we had for the start of worship. Instead of starting with a big Grand Opening worship service, we decided to start worshipping ourselves on Sunday mornings. We put off our Grand Opening service until January. I think this plan is better than the original one. I can’t say I’m thankful that we had such a low turnout for our second Alpha event, but I am thankful that we were able to learn from it and develop a stronger plan for our new church.

My hope for our Presbytery is we can enter into a learning phase about Presbyfest. What has the cancellation of Presbyfest caused us to learn? How will these conclusions change the Presbytery’s programming and the way we program in the future?

It’s bad enough to have to endure the cancellation of Presbyfest; it would be even worse if we don’t learn and grow and become more effective as a Presbytery.


Rochelle said...

Thanks Paul, for writing about this. I have been contemplating how, as an elder I could share my disappointment in a meaningful way. I agree - - it is one of the few ways to offer needed training. It also, more than Presbytery meetings, allows relaxed and informal dialogue and fellowship in a broadened format.
I feel disappointment for those who worked long and hard to put this valuable program together, and want to express my appreciation for all they did.
Keep blogging!

Neal Lloyd said...

Greetings. Read your blog-post about Presbyfest. The dysfunction and fragmentation in PTCA has grown over a long time and will not quickly return to anything that looks like community cohesion. For a pew-sitter to hear of Presbyfest and say "I'd like to go to that" might be effected by inviting Sarah Palin to be the keynote speaker (Shooting potential new members with tranquilizer guns from a helicopter as effective evangelism); or, more likely when those pew-sitters say something like "I'm a part of this Presbyterian enterprise and I'd like to learn more." Across the church I hear young, creative, energetic pastors saying that they think presbytery is a kind of burden to be borne, or a joke to be blown off. A recent facebook exchange I read indicated a compliment to a person (alleged to be a former EP) who said the best way to endure presbytery meetings was to sit in the back, talk with friends and leave early.

A change in attitude will begin with a strategy that addresses the pastors in some way that says the institution has a direct awareness of and involvement in their lives as pastor. (choices are on the spectrum between direct control and sweet enticement) Only if pastors feel community with each other and obligation/connection to the institution will they communicate to the lay leaders that something like Presbyfest is important. [and, if I might add a prejudicial note, when I say pastors, I likely mean only those serving actual gatherings of faithful folk in organized worshiping communities. Specialized clergy bring a different agenda and generate only secondary participation benefits to the institution of the presbytery]

Chainoflakesncd said...

Thanks, Neal and Rochelle.
I hope that we as a Presbytery can learn from this and grow as an organization--however long that may take!

Dennis Sanders said...

Paul, could I use this post in EMerge?