Towards A Behavioral Covenant
Last year when I arrived here in Belmont I was surprised at the lack of an important interlocking set of documents that many congregations have in place: policies and covenants.
A quick review as I see it:
A Mission is what a congregation is about, what it exists for (e.g., a congregation of mutual care and nurturance that works for social justice);
A Vision is where it hopes to be in the future in fulfillment of the Mission, (e.g., we will be the voice of liberal religion in Belmont);
Goals are the steps to get to that Vision in fulfillment of the Mission, (e.g., we will strengthen the work of our Caring Connection);
Covenants are how we will be with one another as we work towards the fulfillment of our Mission, (e.g., we will treat one another with respect, seeing the holiness in each other).
Policies are guiding principles and procedures which, when they are not about meeting simple procedural needs, should embody and express the Mission and the Covenant in particular and the other documents in general.
We are moving towards creating a Church Behavioral Covenant.
Our Covenants remind us of what is most important in congregational life and call us to be our better selves in our relationships with one another. How do I want to be treated, how do I want to treat others?
A Covenant is not a contract where if one fails to fulfill every jot and tittle one is fined or otherwise punished. Instead, a Covenant is a call to best behavior and to right relationship and also to the restoration of right relationship when failures or disruptions occur.
Covenants are certainly not new to human history, but also are not new to this congregation. Every Small Group Ministry group here creates a covenant for itself and reviews it periodically; it reminds them of how they have agreed to be with one another. And the Youth Group creates a Covenant each year. Other examples also exist.
Why do we need a congregational Covenant, and why now?
I believe every congregation should have a Covenant because how we treat one another is at the heart of living religiously with one another; and how we call ourselves to be towards others is part of our individual spiritual growth and development.
We should create one now because we do not already have one. It is that simple.