Attending a Church Service, Viewed as a Business Meeting
There are several distinct phases the occur during a service, and believe it or not, they resemble a standard business meeting. Please note that my observations are based on my personal experience in the United States. Other cultures may differ.
As an additional side note, I should mention that I am "pro" business. If you are searching for an exposé on the supposed "evils" of American corporations, you will need to look elsewhere.
As with any business meeting, participants gather one-by-one, in pairs, or in small groupings. They find a place to sit, usually in the same general area as the last meeting. Some people like to sit up front, close to the person who will chair the meeting. We will call this person the leader for now. Others prefer to hang back. Generally there is some kind of background music playing, which stops when the leader calls the meeting to order.
Call to Order
The leader begins by welcoming the participants, and makes a few general remarks. This person will have a few instructions and announcements, and refer people to the printed agenda (bulletin). Typically, but not always, there will be a few moments for people to rise, and meet and greet each other formally. This involves handshaking and sharing pleasantries. There may be more music at this time.
Why We Are Here
The first order of business is that all participants agree as to why they are here. The purpose of the meeting, so to speak. The theme is problem-solving (sin), and decision-making (redemption). There is a verbal exchange between the leader and the participants during this stage.
Next on the agenda is old business. The leader or one of the participants will read from a collection of writings, detailing the history of prior participants. These are assembled in a publication which is available for all the participants to read and review regularly. The reading during the meeting is therefore a formality, just to get everyone “on the same page.”
The leader will then make an extensive presentation on some aspect of the publication. He or she will expound on the message of the words, and what participants should do going forward, in order to learn, grow, and develop based on those words.
There is a financial aspect to every gathering. Participants address the fiscal health of the organization, and pledge their support to ensure continued operations.
New business consists of requests directed to Headquarters, for the continued well-being of the organization, and the individuals who belong to it. The leader generally announces these requests. Some requests are general in nature, and others have been submitted in advance of the meeting for the leader to share. Specific requests are articulated, and the participants verbally acknowledge their support.
The leader wraps up by wishing all the participants good fortune and continued success in carrying out the vision and mission of the organization, both individually and as a group. There is usually also a verbal acknowledge from the participants at this point.
Another musical interlude signals the conclusion of the meeting. Participants exit the main gathering location, and mingle near the refreshments provided (such as coffee, donuts, cake, cookies, and the like). They all disperse shortly thereafter.
Action Items and Follow-up
Most participants will feel a strong call to action at the conclusion of the meeting. This will quickly wane for most, resulting in the necessity for repetition of agenda elements at the next meeting.
Some, however, will follow-through. These individuals spread the message of the organization, and do good works throughout the community. Without the support and active involvement of these folks, the whole mission of the organization would quickly wither and die.
My meaning here is simple: the need to gather together for mutual support is great. People will continue to commune with like-minded individuals, to feel the mutual support, reinforce their beliefs, and make plans for the future. Whether they are conducting business, or attending a church service, there are certain fundamental elements present. For those who rail against “organized religion” as some archaic, out-of-date relic, think again. The trappings may change with the times, but people will continue to feel the need to meet and share their ideas until the end of time.