The congregational meeting was held right after the Sunday service to guarantee a quorum. There were a couple of important issues to discuss, including passing a deficit budget to help fund a part time membership coordinator in service of their desire for growth. Standard reports were given by the board, the minister, the religious educator and various committee chairs. Bellies were starting to feel hunger and eyes were starting to glaze over. The last report was from the finance committee, presenting the deficit budget and opening up the discussion.
The first member to speak explained that she was retired, debt free, and on a fixed income and couldn’t possibly pledge any more. The next member accused the finance committee of “dropping this bomb” on the congregation at the last minute. The next threatened to withhold their pledge if the congregation passed a deficit budget. Tempers continued to flare until the budget was revised to take out the additional spending. The leaders felt that the congregation’s vision was sabotaged, and that affected their ability to serve with joy for the rest of the year.
We know from brain science that when humans feel that they are threatened, the amygdala become engaged and the higher brain functions such as reason and creativity are overshadowed by flight or fight responses. When the brain has experienced this sort of amygdala hijack, it takes three or four hours to regain full cognitive functioning!
Some congregations understand this and have separated out the presentation and discussion parts from the voting parts of their congregational meetings so that the discussion can happen without the time-pressure of an immediate pending vote. This way members can share their concerns, leaders can listen deeply and decisions can be made with our creative and rational neo-cortex and not our emotionally reactive cerebellum. It turns out that “sleeping on it” does help us make better decisions!
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Congregational Life Staff, Central East Regional Group