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A Pastor’s Reflections: Write a Proposal

April 30, 2013


As a pastor one of the things you can expect is that people will regularly come up with all sorts of ideas and inform you what the church needs to do. When people approached me with numerous ideas, I always had three responses. First, I thanked them for their suggestion, no matter how crazy or sound it was. At a certain level I was grateful that people were thinking about ways to make the church better. Second, I reminded them that I as the pastor could not make decisions on my own authority. I told people that while I was the pastor, I governed the church with the session, with the elders, and all church-wide decisions had to be the action of the session, not of any one individual. Too many churches have benevolent dictatorships or monarchies, and the Bible tells us that pastors and elders rule the church together (1 Tim 3; Acts 15, e.g.). When people heard this, they not only were reminded of this important biblical truth but they were also aware that the elders of the church did their best at overseeing the church. Third, I always asked people to write up a proposal. Why did I do this?

I think far too many people are full of ideas and short on action. They want other people to carry out the work. By asking a person to write a proposal forced them to give careful thought to their idea as well as think about how it might be put into practice. Another benefit of a written proposal is that the person who came up with the idea could ensure that all of the details of their proposal would be written down so nothing would be lost or forgotten. Sometimes in the shuffle of ideas from the one who makes the suggestion, to the pastor, and to the session or consistory, details get lost. There was another benefit to the request to write a proposal—it acted as a weed-out barrier. The people who were genuinely serious about doing things in the church would write up their proposals, but those who were just throwing out ideas seldom, if ever, wrote anything down. I think of all of the ideas I received a good seventy-five percent of them never wrote-up a proposal, so I never carried the idea to the session. This undoubtedly saved the session and me a lot of time and work.

You can certainly act on every idea that you receive, but prudence seems to dictate that it would be helpful to ask people to write-up their ideas in a proposal. There seem to be too many benefits to such a course of action and few drawbacks.