A great way to deal with the nuts and bolts of church life

This week for the last time I shall attend a meeting of the PSM – for soon I shall be stepping down from full-time stipendiary ministry. In some ways I shall not be sorry to give up my membership of the PSM. It has not been the most inspiring of bodies. And yet, it has proved extraordinarily helpful in dealing with the nuts and bolts of church life. Let me explain.

PSM stands for ‘personnel, support and management’. In the first place this body was set up for my support – it was there to help me deal with personnel and management issues. But as time has gone by it has become supportive to all its members. The membership is made up of four people from our church leadership team: myself, my senior deacon, my church treasurer, and the chairman of the committee concerned for ‘lettings’ (this is a very significant ministry of our church). The PSM is effectively an ‘inner cabinet’ of the leadership team, and yet its focus is not primarily on mission and ministry. Rather, we are there to focus on the nuts and bolts of church life, and where appropriate to bring proposals to the leadership team for approval.

Since its inception six years ago we have met every month, and in doing so have freed the leadership team to focus on leading the church. Many issues we have discussed have never reached the leadership team – matters for instance like the church credit card, run-of-the mill fabric concerns, paternity leave, a new piano, and preaching fees. Other issues have reached the leadership team, but only after we have done all the hard work of thinking through and developing plans. For instance, it was the PSM which oversaw the development of the staff handbook – we went through it page by page; whereas when the staff handbook came to the leadership team last month discussion only centred around whether or not all staff should have to be committed Christians. Similarly it was the PSM which carefully considered the church treasurer’s proposals for this year’s outside giving – we spent time going through all the figures and in the process made detailed amendments; but when the finalised proposals came to the leadership team last month, they were accepted without discussion!

One advantage of the PSM is that it is much smaller than our leadership team, which is made up of the four ministers and twelve deacons. A meeting with 18 people present takes much longer to deal with matters than a meeting of four people. Furthermore, there are some personnel issues which are much easier to deal with in a small meeting rather than in a large meeting.

Initially I chaired the meetings of the PSM – just as I have always chaired all leadership team meetings and indeed all church meetings. However, after a while I began to find the chairmanship onerous, not least because in my role as chairman I took on the responsibility of drawing up the agendas. In recent years, however, my senior deacon has taken on that role – and that has made life so much easier. My only formal responsibility has been to close the meeting in prayer!

If the truth be told, most members of the church haven’t a clue there is such a body as the PSM. It is not that we keep its existence secret –on the church development plan it is clearly listed as one of the five ‘hub ministry’ teams which support the church in fulfilling its key purposes. However, in so far as it reports only to the leadership team, it is largely ‘invisible’. But, since its creation, I have found it to be invaluable. The PSM is a great way to deal with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of church life.

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