Maybe you’ve seen it happen. A group of church leaders are striving to make an “official” decision, but the discussions move beyond the official discussion to the parking lot (or the hallways, or the local café, or the telephone). Here’s why those parking lot meetings are seldom good:
- The discussions are seldom designed to build up others. If the goal were to help others, the others would be more included in the conversations.
- They are, by nature, private or secret meetings. There are times when private meetings are necessary, but the nature of “parking lot” meetings usually reveals less than godly motives among the participants.
- They almost automatically create division. Apparently, the parking lot participants weren’t willing to express their opinion in the official meeting, or they’re wondering how to sway votes in future meetings. Both can quickly become divisive.
- They’re often “after the fact.” That is, the church has made a decision to move in a particular direction, but the parking lot talk is designed to thwart that decision. That reality takes us back to #3 above.
- They’re seldom—if ever—saturated in prayer. A decision-making process that lacks prayer can become man-centered, and it can produce really bad decisions.
- The discussions are often rooted in power and control. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a parking lot meeting among people who are graciously surrendering their preferences and wills for the good of the local body.
- They cannot, by design, involve the congregation. I’m a congregationalist who recognizes that congregationalism can also become democracy run amok—but I’m still not inclined to support decisions made by a few people talking behind the backs of others.
- They’re often “led” by the same people. Sometimes they’re folks in official positions in the church; at other times, they’re people who think they should be in an official position. Either way, they’re usually troublemakers.
- They are often built around wrong, incomplete, or gossiped information. It’s easy to move in a negative direction when the information you have is inaccurate in the first place.
- Seldom, if ever, do they include pastoral staff members. Whether your church has a single leader or a plurality of leaders, our spiritual leaders are placed there for a reason. “Decisions” made without them in the conversation can be a problem.
Here’s my point: avoid parking lot business meetings. They can’t last long if no one participates.