Did you hear about the church business meeting that ended in a fist fight in the parking lot; over the color of the new carpet? I'm not sure if that story is true but it is often told. It serves as an illustration for how volatile church meetings can be.
Understanding that church committee, board, council and business meetings are spiritual gatherings can go a long way to bringing God's presence into our deliberations. Opening and closing in prayer is a good practice but we need to move deeper than these book-end prayers. One way is to pray over each agenda item; seeking God's wisdom and clarity.
Hymns and other Christian songs can help set an appropriate atmosphere. Another form of prayer is create a litany of recent victories. After each victory is read, the people pray in unison, “We give thanks to you, our Lord.”
If the group is small and not familiar with each other, begin with someone sharing a brief (3 minute) testimony. If it is a retreat-type setting, with a longer meeting time, more people can share.
Vision casting is important element in understanding purpose. Not just the vision for the organization but, also, for the group and this particular meeting. How are we going to honor God in this meeting? How will we advance the Kingdom... the Gospel... the Great Commission? Tie the vision to scripture in a vibrant way that binds the journey of the church to God's Word.
Move beyond statistical reports to victory stories. Whose lives are being changed? Numbers have value but stories bring them to life in a way that is memorable and spurs us on to greater service and sacrifice.
Most importantly, Christians must remember who we are and whom we represent. Moderators need to be ready to pause a meeting for a time of prayer and reflective silence; perhaps, even, a hymn if a meeting becomes contentious. Angry shouting has no place in a Christian gathering.
Discernment is more than consensus and compromise and may require a bit more time. Discerning God's will is worth the wait. It's certainly better than a bad decision and much better than the bitter feelings left behind after a split vote.