Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tradition in Meetings

When I attended the BMAA annual meeting, the president of the association preached on the first night. The president’s message has become a tradition in recent years. There has always been an annual message. That is also traditional. But on the first night, one of the vice-presidents got up and did another traditional thing. He expressed the appreciation of the association for the sermon. It is traditional for someone to be asked to get up in front of the association after a sermon, shake the preacher’s hand and express gratitude for the sermon, usually summarizing the message as he does. There is also a tradition of someone getting up to introduce the speaker before the sermon. I’m not sure how these traditions got started, but they have become a part of nearly every church association I’ve been involved with.

At the meeting, a group of us were sitting around discussing a few things and one of the things that came up was the level of planning of the worship services. Considering the type of meeting it is, there isn’t that much and yet the worship services seem to go off pretty well, year after year. Why is that? In a word, tradition.

When we consider an organization like the BMAA, there is the potential of great variety in those who are chosen to lead the association. Some may come from large churches and have experience putting together large structured worship services. On the other hand, it is possible that those leading may be from small churches that don’t plan in much detail. This is one of the places where tradition truly shines. I’ve been in smaller association meetings where the president of the association came up to me right at time to start and said, “Can you lead a couple of songs?” About all you can do at that point is to grab a hymnal, as you look around the room for a piano player, and thumb through the book to find a song. It may not be the best situation, but those worship services looked planned because of tradition calls for congregational singing to occur first, then comes the annual message.

It is good to follow tradition in meetings because it frees us to focus our attention on other things rather than trying to come up with some new plan for the meeting. But as with all tradition, it is sometimes good to reevaluate the need for some of the traditions we follow. That's not because all tradition is bad, but because the tradition may cause us to do things that no longer need to be done.