Rev. Jay Zahn
Rethinking Congregational Governance, Rev. Jay Zahn and Haley Meier
Here are two common challenges that relate to congregational governance.
First, many WELS congregations report having consistent trouble filling all the elected positions required by their current church constitution and bylaws. Year after year, it devolves into a hunt, not so much for people who are qualified, but warm bodies. Or congregations end up having the same people serve indefinitely just to meet constitutional requirements, which can lead to burnout or a status quo entrenchment of ideas.
A second challenge is that WELS women often feel they have no way to share thoughts about congregational ministry. In pulse surveys of over 3000 WELS women, when asked if “I am able to play a role in the decision-making process in this congregation,” about eighty percent either somewhat disagree or strongly disagree. That percentage is even higher when the question is asked of single women. While church constitutions often stipulate that the views of single women are to be heard and shared by the board of elders, in reality, it rarely happens.
For these reasons, many WELS congregations are rethinking the organizational structure and governance model of their church. These new models uphold and reinforce the biblical head/helper principles. But they also create biblically appropriate way to plan, conduct, and assess ministry that involves a much broader swath of membership. This includes the creation of more service-oriented ministry teams open to men and women, carefully crafted position descriptions that allow congregations to better utilize the broad range of gifts God has provided to women, and more use of open forums that allow all members to share ideas for and provide assessment of current ministry efforts.
What do we see in these congregations? There are more people excited to be involved in the mission of the Church and greater sense of ownership in the congregation’s ministry. There is broader consensus about the direction of the congregation. Volunteerism increases enabling greater utilization and focus of each person’s God-given gifts and abilities. The divine design of what it means to be ‘male’ and ‘female’ is honored and God’s created order and interdependence between the genders is better realized.
Rev. Jay Zahn
Jay is a 2000 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He has served mission congregations in South Carolina and Florida. As of January 2022, he’s been serving as executive pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wis. Leading the reorganization of the congregation has been a major focus of his initial work at Trinity. Jay has been married to his wife, Jessie, for 25 years. God has blessed them with two children, a twenty-three-year-old son, Micah, and an eighteen-year-old daughter, Susannah.
Haley is a 2006 graduate of Carroll College. She is a critical care nurse at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and teaches in the lab at Carroll University. Haley has been serving as Parent Council President for the last five years at Trinity Lutheran School in Waukesha, Wis. She also serves on Trinity Lutheran Church’s stewardship committee for the last four years. Encouraging males and females of all ages in generous giving of time, talents, and treasures is something Haley is passionate about. Haley has been married for 15 years to her husband, Joel Meier. God has blessed them with three children: Colton – 12, Emmitt – 10, Lily – 6.