Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church discipline: the how

My experience has been that a major case of church discipline comes up about once every 300 member-years. (You calculate "member-years" by multiplying the number of active members times years.)

A church with a hundred active members, in other words, generally deals with a major case of church discipline (i.e. adultery, fraud, child abuse) every three years or so, while a church with 30 active members generally deals with something like this about once a decade.

Okay, maybe my figures are off . . . but here's what I've learned from the situations I've been through:
  • Make sure the church secretary knows what to say over the phone before church members start calling to find out what's happening.
  • Call your elders personally and let them know what's happening before you meet as a group.
  • Decide at the Elders Meeting whether or not to take a "time out" at the Business Meeting so that you can discuss this without the person who's up for discipline being there.
  • Let church members know in advance what will be discussed at the Business Meeting without going into too details, i.e. "We will be discussing what to do about a problem that's come up with one of our members."
  • If the person involved asks to have their membership dropped, you must comply with their request -- and you should vote this without any discussion.
  • As always, keep a log of all phone calls and discussions -- and make sure your Conference officers know what's going on!


Anonymous said...

Why would you want to discuss it at a business meeting without the person present? That seems a violation of fair play.

Pastor Greg said...

In most cases, the church member has a right to be at that Business Meeting in order to answer questions and/or defend themself.

(The one exception, of course, would be a church member who's currently doing time in jail or prison.)

And myself, I'd prefer that the church member involved be present throughout the meeting . . . but some church members use the analogy of a jury to say they should be allowed to discuss things privately before reaching a public decision.

As I said, it's something you'll want to discuss with your elders before the Business Meeting -- not after.

gwalter said...

Why would anyone want all their business brought out before the whole church?