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FSM 282 DO
Tips on Home Council Meetings
© December 1995, by The Family, Zurich, Switzerland
Compiled by WS Staff

       "As a Team We Do It Better!"       2
       The Charter on Home Council Meetings       3
       Changing Our Concept of the Decision-making Process!       4
       Prepare an Agenda!       5
       The Meeting Room       7
       Beginning the Meeting       7
       Meeting Notes       8
       The Meeting Schedule       8
       Voting Procedure Reminders       9
       Alternatives to Formal Home Council Meetings       10
       Defining Roles       11
       Ground Rules       12
       Needed: Christian Graces!       14
       Time Savers       15
       Don't Add Weight to Your Opinion!       16
       Sensitive Subjects       16
       Subcommittees       17
       Tips for Moderators       17
       When Is It Time to Rely on Prophecy for Your Decision-making?       21
       Reaching Decisions       22
       Implementing Home Council Decisions       23
       At the Close of the Meeting       23
       After the Meeting       24

       "Everybody has a right to be happy and to have his needs met and to do the work he likes to do and wants to do if he's in the will of God and competent and qualified. So we all need to work together, we need to listen to each other, counsel together, agree together, decide together and then work it out together" (ML #263:75,76). Doesn't that sound like the formula for an inspiring, fulfilling, productive and united Home--just the sort of Home we'd all like to be a part of? Well, we can! The Word and the Love Charter are our blueprint, and the Lord has given us great tools and building materials, wonderful workmates and all the necessary talents. Now we just need to figure out how to put it all together!--Ha!
       Well, that's what we hope to do with this FSM--share a few lessons from some experienced builders to help you construct a sound, safe, comfortable and happy Home. These tips are by no means complete, nor do they provide cut-and-dried, black-and-white, 1-2-3 steps that fit every circumstance; you'll need to pray and counsel about how you can best apply this counsel to your situation.
       We'd also like to make it very clear that these tips are not rules or requirements. We're simply sharing these pointers as a help to you, but you are in no way bound or required to adhere to any of these suggestions if you feel they do not fit your situation or help your meetings go better. Only points which are designated "rules" in the Charter must be followed; how you put the other tips into practice is up to you, as you believe the Lord is leading you. Although these points are presented from the perspective of Home Council Meetings, you may find that many of them can also be applied to your witnessing, business, childcare and other meetings.
       There are a lot of tips in this FSM--more than you can expect to absorb in a single reading. However, if you refer back to this FSM when needed, in time these pointers and procedures will become second nature. Developing some of the skills described here may require a bit of practice, so "let patience have her perfect work" that you may be "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ja.1:4; Eph.2:22). We love you! Happy building!

"As a Team We Do It Better!"
       In the post-Charter era of the Family, leadership and responsibility are "family affairs." Each voting member--from teens to Home teamworkers--has equal responsibility in the decision-making process. The Lord is teaching us to work as a team and share the leadership load!
       As was to be expected and as many have already testified, it is taking some time for all of us--"leader" and "follower" alike--to change our mind-sets and modes of operation.--But it is happening, praise the Lord! In the process, the Lord is giving us a greater love and appreciation for one another and teaching us to exercise our faith muscles more.
       Following are excerpts of prophecies received by a WS Unit at the time of Summit '95. Here the Lord stresses that we need to let every voice in our Homes be heard, and reminds us that He has made us one body, each member of which is needed.

       For it is a new ... era [EDITED: "when"] the voice of every member of the body is important. It is an age where every member of the body must be given their due recognition and must be considered to be of great importance to Me. In a way, it is a rankless revolution; for the shepherds must learn to lead the sheep and must learn to give unto My sheep dignity and recognition ... and to treat them with equality and with the great love that I would treat them with. ... For every voice is important, and it is necessary to learn the importance of every voice.

* * * * * * *

       Behold, I am giving the bottom a voice for the top, and therefore, the voice that was at the top must change. ... For it is true, the counsel in the heart of man is like deep waters, and if you wish to be a man of understanding, you will draw it out. The voices at the bottom must be able to surface.

* * * * * * *

       There will be a balance as each one will see his need for the other one. For I have given gifts to all. There are many gifts, but the same Spirit, for I am in all and work through all. But for this reason, you must honor the weaker vessel. For the weaker vessel could have the greater gift, because it is clothed in humility and is closer to Me.
       For this is a great mystery, that some have different anointings, some have different gifts, but it is all of Me, it is all of My Spirit, and I would be exalted and I would be looked to and I would be glorified. But as you humble yourselves and prefer one another, in this way you will be able to work together in true teamwork, in true unity, as each seeks the good of the other, and as each seeks the welfare of the other, and each seeks to lift up the other's ministries and to help the other. For no one should say, mine is the most important branch, mine is the most important aspect. For each one is important, and all are important as they work together. ... As you honor each other, you honor Me in the other. You honor the gifts and talents that I have given to the other.
       But many have need of encouragement, they have need to see that their gifts are of Me. The more outspoken ones should encourage the less outspoken ones. The more outgoing ones should encourage the quieter ones, to know that their gifts are of use as well, so that you can all work together, so that you can all use what I have given.--For My Spirit will not strive. The quieter one will not say, "You have need of me." Therefore, the bolder must say, "We have need of you."
       For this is the message I would give all of you, that there would be no one who is greater than the other, but each has their gifts and each has their calling and each has their place. As the candlestick with 12 candles, each has its place. One does not shine more than another, but they each shine equally in their way. So you should not say, his gifts are greater than mine, or his gifts are less than mine. For I give gifts unto men as I will, severally to each one according to My purpose. One is not better than another. For I apportion gifts according to My will.


What the Charter Has to Say about Home Council Meetings
       Home Council Meeting: a meeting to discuss Home matters in which a minimum of 50% of the Home's voting members must be present (Definition and Explanation of Terms, pg.xi).
       Voting Member: member of a Home who has reached the age of 16 and has been in the Family for at least six months, and is not on Probationary Status or Partial Excommunication (Definition and Explanation of Terms, pg.xii).
       Even though our members under the age of 16 and new disciples are not voting members, you are encouraged to seek their opinions and participation in Home matters that concern them. Whenever practical, our junior teens should be permitted to attend Home Council Meetings covering matters pertaining to them. However, until new disciples have been in the Family for six months, they should not be invited to Home Council Meetings (Responsibilities of Individual Members, 1.K, pg.6, as amended by Charter Amendment No.2: Home Council Meeting Attendance [EDITED: "LNFs No.225, 3/95"]).
       [EDITED: "Voting members"] have the right to help decide the direction, the goals and the basic nature of your Home, and the activities which your Home undertakes to meet those goals. You have the right to pray, discuss with others, and debate any issues in your Home Council Meetings before voting on a course of action. ... Unless specified otherwise, when a vote is taken on any matter, the majority rules. So if over 50% of the Home's voting members agree with something, then it is passed. This means that if there is a tie vote then the measure is not passed. There are some matters that require two-thirds of the voting members' agreement before passage, including all financial matters, certain personnel changes, and disciplinary matters (Responsibilities of Individual Members, 2.B, pgs.12-13).
       [EDITED: "D.O. Homes are required to have"] a minimum of two Home Council Meetings per month for voting members, at least one of which must address financial matters. A minimum of 50% of the Home's voting members must be present.
       The Home must have at least two Home Council Meetings per month, one of which is devoted entirely or in part to financial matters. When it says a minimum, that doesn't mean that that's all the Home has to do, rather that's the least they must do; it is what is required. Some Homes might find that they need a weekly Home Council Meeting, others might feel that they need them twice a week. It's up to them to decide, but the Home cannot decide to have less than two Home Council Meetings per month.
       Home Council Meetings should be held at a convenient time and when the greatest number of voting members are available. There must be at least 50% of the Home's voting members in the meeting. Remember, if you don't attend a Home Council Meeting, you still can vote on the matters when you return Home. Or you can give someone your proxy, which allows them to vote for you in your absence.
       Also, if a member abstains, the Home's voting population is decreased by one for that particular vote ("Fundamental Family Rules," 15.C, pg.150).


Changing Our Concept of the Decision-making Process!
       The Lord has made it clear that in this new day He does not want us to try to solve our problems just by ourselves, without looking to Him. We are to call on Him and find the answers we need either in His written Word, in His whispers directly to us, in Godly counsel, or in a combination of these and the other ways to find His will. This is the secret to success in Home Council Meetings, and in our Homes in general.
       To get the most out of your meetings, put quality prayer into them. Those responsible for the meeting should pray about the agenda and other preparations, and everyone attending should pray at the start of the meeting. You may also want to stop for prayer if the meeting begins to drift off track or get bogged down. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Pro.3:6). You will be amazed at all the Lord can interject when you take time to pray and ask Him if you might have forgotten something! And of course you should seal your decisions with prayer.
       It is often difficult to come up with a tailor-made solution to every problem that arises, and in an effort to find a quick, easy answer, we sometimes tend to rely on past experience. However, very few situations are exactly the same, and the Lord has told us often that we need to pray for His specific answer to each of our problems. That may take longer than defaulting to what worked before in a similar situation, but will bear better fruit.
       All of My children from the beginning until now have struggled with leaning upon their own strength in their service unto Me, and leaning upon Me to perform their service. ... And those few who have understood and who leaned upon My power in prayer and who sought Me in all things have accomplished more than any men, for they operated in the power of My Spirit. For the power and might of God is so strong, yet My children do not tap into it nearly as much as they could.
       Let Me carry the burden. Bring it unto Me. Ask of Me and seek Me, for I promise to show you and to give you those answers that ye seek, that you may find true rest in Me. And thus thou shalt understand My Word when I say, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord." And so shall you understand when I say, "Stand back and see Me fight." And ye shall know that ye have this treasure in earthen vessels that the power and excellency may be of God and not of man, that no flesh should glory in My presence.
       So rest in Me and be freed from the heavy burdens. For though the questions may not go away, the answers can come forth, flow forth in great abundance if ye will but tap into the source, My Spirit. For in Me is great power, and in Me is all that ye need, for I am all in all, and I am here for you ("Let Jesus Bear the Weight," ML #2987: excerpts of 121-132).
       The Lord does not want us to figure things out on our own; He wants us to seek Him for answers. But He also wants us to confer and counsel together, especially on day-to-day matters of the Home. We just need to be sure to include Him in the decision-making process!

Prepare an Agenda!
       * Ideally, well in advance of each Home Council Meeting, everyone should know what will be discussed and voted upon. That way they can pray about the various topics beforehand. Not having to hash out an agenda at the beginning of each Council Meeting will also save lots of time and thus enable you to bring more topics to a vote.
       So with this in mind, below are some ideas on how to make an agenda and then present it to the Home, in order to let everyone know ahead of time what will be covered in the meeting. These procedures may seem a bit cumbersome to you at first, and they are optional, but you will probably find in the long run that having an agenda will help your Home meetings go more smoothly.

       * The Charter has this to say about agendas for Home Council Meetings:
       [EDITED: "All voting members of the Home have the right to"] bring up any matter in the appropriate Home Council Meeting and have it brought to a vote. The matter must be discussed and voted on within 15 days.
       While it may be most appropriate to suggest topics for Home Council Meetings prior to the meeting, allowing for a predetermined agenda to be followed in the meeting, you are free to bring up any matter that you want to in the appropriate Home Council. However, since the meeting will probably be following a predetermined agenda, it may be inappropriate to stop everything and discuss and vote on that matter right then. The person chairing the Home Council Meeting will make that decision. In any case, the topic needs to be discussed and voted on within 15 days (Responsibilities and Rights of Individual Members, 3.D, pgs.17-18).

       * Perhaps the easiest way to collect agenda points is to have a conveniently located box or envelope specifically for this purpose. Home members can then turn in their suggested topics as they think of them. You will probably want to establish a cut-off time for submitting agenda points. A day or so before that cut-off, remind everyone that the deadline is drawing close. Your Home teamwork or whoever is responsible for planning and leading the next meeting will then be able to put together a list of topics to be covered, and establish a tentative order.

       * The proposed agenda can then be circulated or posted for the voting members to look over. (Non-voting members such as junior teens and JETTs who may also be interested in what is going to be discussed could also be shown the agenda.) If anyone has any serious qualms about discussing a certain point publicly, they can bring this to the attention of those preparing the meeting. Circulating the agenda ahead of time also makes it possible for everyone to help fine-tune the agenda priorities; you may want to suggest that each council member renumber the list according to their burdens and leadings so those organizing the meeting can then assess which topics most people want to discuss first.
       Remember, however, that the Charter stipulates that all matters submitted which require a united Home decision must be brought to a vote within 15 days. This means that any points carried over from your previous meeting or two may need to be given priority on the agenda for the next meeting. (See quote on the previous page, from "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights," point 3.D, pg.17.) Be sure to keep a record of when each point was submitted, and include this information on the proposed agenda which is circulated before each meeting.

       * If you agree to this predetermined agenda procedure, as a general rule other points should not be brought up during the meeting. There may be exceptions, of course, especially in cases where one of your agenda points takes an unexpected turn which opens a new topic of discussion. When this happens, the Charter says that the person chairing the meeting can make the decision as to whether to stop the present discussion to cover a new point which has been brought up. (See quote on previous page.) The moderator may choose to take a quick vote to determine if a majority of the council members wants to deviate from the agenda to deal with the new point, or leave that point for another meeting.

       * If for any reason it is not possible or practical to circulate the agenda beforehand, each member could be given a copy as the meeting opens, or it could be read aloud. Then you could ask for a show of hands to confirm the tentative order.

       * If you post or pass out a tentative agenda beforehand, people should not "lobby" before the meeting, as lobbying can lead to block voting, which undermines the unity and open forum nature of your Home Council Meetings. In other words, if someone has strong feelings about a certain matter, they shouldn't be overbearing in their discussions or try too hard to win others to their way of thinking before the meeting. Everyone needs to hear all sides before deciding how they will vote on each matter, and they should never feel pressured by others to vote a certain way. If you find that some people in your Home are pressuring others about topics they have a vested interest in, as a Home you could decide to refrain from discussing any agenda points among yourselves prior to your Home Council Meetings (except to gather information which needs to be presented at the meeting). However, it can often be helpful to discuss meeting points ahead of time; just try to insure that no one railroads their program through, and that everyone feels free to vote as they personally feel led.

       * You may want to suggest that everyone read some Word in preparation for discussing certain agenda points. For instance, if your Home is in financial trouble and you need to discuss this at your next meeting, perhaps everyone could be asked to read "The Seven Cures for Financial Ills" (ML #1271), or some other appropriate Word on the subject. This could be done either at a united devotions, or privately.

       * There may be other reading material which would help people prepare for the meeting, and this should likewise be circulated or brought to their attention ahead of time. For example, if someone wants to propose a new outreach method or ministry based on a testimony from another Home which has already tried it, everyone could be encouraged to read that testimony before your meeting. Or if you are going to discuss how to pay your bills or improve your tool distribution, you may want to ask your stats person to circulate some facts and figures about your recent outreach. This allows everyone an opportunity to pray about these matters before your meeting, and will help you make the most of your valuable and limited time together. The above examples, if presented in a balanced manner, would not be considered lobbying.

       * Avoid passing out reading material during your meeting; people cannot read and listen simultaneously. If you must pass out new reading material prior to discussing a particular point, stop the discussion and give everyone a few minutes to read it, or read it aloud all together.

       * Once you have determined your agenda, everyone who will be called upon to share facts and figures, testimonies, lessons, demonstrations, or lead the opening inspiration, etc., should be given advance notice and time to prepare. Avoid putting anyone on the spot during the meeting.

The Meeting Room
       * To make the meeting as pleasant and distraction-free as possible for everyone attending, appoint someone to set up the meeting area with:
       --proper seating, lighting and ventilation
       --comfortable chairs, especially for pregnant and nursing mothers
       --water and possibly snacks (if you plan your meeting to last several hours)
       --pens and paper (for people to write down thoughts as they come to them)
       --reliable recording equipment (to tape the meeting for those who missed it, as an aid to the person taking minutes of the meeting, and to record any prophecies received)
       --reference material, including a copy of the Charter, a Bible and a dictionary

       In some Homes you may be able to have your living room permanently set up with all of the above (except for water and snacks), so that little preparation time is needed when you're ready to have a meeting.

       *To minimize distractions, try to foresee and make prior arrangements for these and other possible problem situations:
       --If you have a telephone extension in your meeting room, you might want to unplug it during the meeting and assign someone to answer the phone elsewhere.
       --Assign someone to answer the door.
       --Test your recording equipment before the meeting and have extra batteries and/or a back-up tape recorder on hand in case the one you're using stops working.

Beginning the Meeting
       * "Get together first of all in prayer in every meeting that you have and praise the Lord and get in the Spirit and pray desperately that God will use you! ... Plead with God to help you be melted together in Love!" (ML #1209:71). When getting together to seek the Lord's guidance, the first step is to acknowledge and praise Him. One of the best ways to do this is by singing some "out of the wings and into His presence" songs. Variety adds spice, so vary the way you open in prayer.
       **Allow a few minutes for ice-breakers. Start with a short, upbeat testimony or two, an anecdote or a little humor to help everyone relax and start entering in. Or pass around a little snack or a fun surprise. Depending on your agenda topics, some people may come to the meeting "with their guns loaded." A little fun fellowship will disarm them and help clear the air. Inspire unity. Make everyone feel a part. Draw the Home together.

Meeting Notes
       * You will want to keep a record of your decisions, and council members not able to be present will appreciate hearing what transpired, so a secretary should be assigned to take notes during each meeting.

       * If your secretary is a skilled typist and it's practical for you to set up a computer in your meeting room, he or she may be able to type semi-final notes while the meeting is in progress. Alternatively, the secretary could take handwritten notes or repeat the main points into a tape recorder, to be typed up later.

       * Decisions which fall into the category of Home guidelines can be compiled periodically into a single file which can then be shared with newcomers to your Home.

The Meeting Schedule
       * Since the Charter requires different Home meetings to be held regularly, you may want to slot them for fixed times in your weekly schedule. That way everyone in the Home will know to plan their time and prepare accordingly. When choosing your meeting times, take into consideration what will be most convenient for everyone and what will interfere the least with your other activities.

       * When setting up a new Home or ministry, many matters need to be discussed and voted upon, necessitating more frequent Home Council Meetings. Once through the pioneering stage, however, the counseling and voting process will probably become simpler and take less of everyone's time.

       * Plan ahead of time for any Home duties which must keep going during the meeting, such as caring for the children or cooking meals. You may want to draw up a rotational schedule for these duties, so that the same people do not always miss meetings.

       * Try to schedule your Home Council Meetings for a time when all--or nearly all--voting members will be able to attend. In most Homes, this is probably after most of the kids are in bed. However, remember that Home Council Meetings can be hard work; try to schedule your meetings on a moderate work day and start early enough so your meeting will not be too taxing on everyone. If you try to meet after an especially long day of witnessing or a big excursion, or go too late, chances are people will be too tired to tune in and give it their best. (See "Fundamental Family Rules," 15.C., pg.150.)

       * If for whatever reason some members are not able to attend, try to arrange for all "departments" of your Home to be represented. Depending on the topics on your agenda, it may be more important for some members to attend than others. In other words, be sure to include in your meeting those who are likely to have the most to contribute to your discussion and/or will be most affected by decisions you reach on the various topics on your agenda. If others less involved or affected must miss the discussion and voting, they must be given the option of reading the meeting notes or listening to the discussion on tape, and then voting. (See "Absentee Votes," on pg.9.)

       * Start on time, keep your meetings fairly short, and keep them moving. Generally, meetings stay fun, interesting, prayerful and productive for about an hour or an hour and a half. After that, people tend to get tired and drained, Christian graces begin to sag, and it's easier for everyone to become picky and critical. It also becomes harder to keep the discussion on course.
       When you have many topics to discuss and decide upon together, it may seem that the more time you spend at it, the more will get done. However, you will probably find that two short meetings are more productive than one long one. As with a good meal, if you quit while everyone is still a little hungry, they will look forward to the next one. End on time, and end on a positive note.

Voting Procedure Reminders
       * Sometimes a member may choose to abstain from voting on a particular issue, either because they are undecided or have no opinion in the matter. However, the Charter stipulates that "if a voting member abstains from voting on a matter, [EDITED: "the"] Home's voting population is decreased by one for that vote" ("Fundamental Family Rules," point 12.A.4).

       * If a number of people abstain from voting on a given point, it's possible for the resolution to pass by less than a majority of the actual voting population. For example, if there are ten voting members in your Home and all are present, the simple majority needed to pass non-financial resolutions is six. However, if three people abstain, they will be subtracted from the voting population for that vote, bringing the number of voting members down to seven. If four people vote in favor and three against, then the resolution is passed by what is actually a minority of the Home's voting population. Seen in this light, the right to abstain does, in fact, have a responsibility attached. Therefore people should be just as prayerful about abstaining as they would be about voting for or against a certain matter.

Absentee Votes
       * The Charter makes two provisions for Home Council members who are not able to be present when a matter is brought to a vote:
       First, they may delegate someone to vote on their behalf (except on financial matters). This is known as voting by proxy. If you have prepared your agenda in advance of your Home Council Meeting, those who will not be able to attend can look over the various points before the meeting and, if they so desire, delegate someone to cast their vote. The obvious downside to voting by proxy is that the absentee voter does not have the benefit of hearing all sides of the matter before casting his vote.
       Second, absentees may vote later--upon their return home or when they are free from the Home duties which kept them from the meeting. (They would have the benefit of listening to tapes of the meeting if it is recorded.) Late votes have the same bearing on the final outcome as those cast during the Council Meeting. In other words, it is possible that late votes will reverse the previous majority decision, and therefore change the adopted course of action. (See "Fundamental Family Rules," points 12.A.5, pgs.140-141.)

       * If a number of people are absent from the meeting and they haven't arranged to vote by proxy, you may want to postpone your discussion and vote on certain topics until you have a better representation of your voting members.

Show of Hands
       * Occasionally you may want to pause in the middle of discussing a certain point and call for a simple show of hands to determine whether or not the majority of the Home seems happy with the way the discussion is headed, or whether it is in keeping with a previous Home decision. For example, if you have set time limits for each speaker but someone is in the middle of making an important, yet lengthy point, and his time has run out, you may ask for a show of hands to determine whether the person should be given more time.

       * A show of hands vote can also be helpful at times other than formal meetings. In any group, there are bound to be different personalities with differing opinions. The outspoken ones can sometimes voice their opinions in such a way that they appear to be speaking for everyone. Others who are more soft-spoken may have other opinions, but hesitate to voice them. Taking a quick vote can settle simple matters quickly and democratically.
       For example, suppose your Home voted to record a weekly news roundup and watch it together before your weekly video. Suppose also that you agreed to fast-forward any particularly gory scenes or unedifying topics. During one viewing, someone may call out, "Fast forward please! This is awful!" Others may feel that while the report includes some unpleasant scenes or details, they need to be informed. A quick show of hands (while the program is paused) will determine whether or not you should fast-forward. If the vote is to carry on with the program, those who feel uncomfortable can leave and return when that part is over.

Straw Polls
       * In some cases when you need to determine whether or not an idea warrants further discussion, you may want to take a non-binding vote, otherwise known as a "straw poll." These can be done at any time, such as at meal time, devotions, news time, etc., and not only at the more formal gatherings such as Home meetings.
       For example, you could ask for a show of hands to find out quickly if most of the Home would like to postpone their free day until Monday in order to accept an invitation to sing at a senior citizens' home on Sunday afternoon, which is normally the Home's free day. You can thus quickly see what is the trend of opinion on the issue. If a clear majority is in favor, you probably wouldn't need to discuss all the pros and cons before taking a final vote. But if the vote is split nearly evenly, or, if after seeing the results of the straw poll any members feel the matter warrants further discussion, you would need to do so before bringing the matter to a binding vote.

Alternatives to Formal Home Council Meetings
       * Not all Home management decisions have to be made at official Home meetings. The time you choose to discuss and vote on a matter may depend on the nature of the point. Timely decisions must be made on a daily or, on occasion, moment-by-moment basis. Other matters are so minor that another time and place other than the Home Council Meeting would be more expedient, such as the end of Home devotions, as you finish dinner, or when you gather for a video, etc.

       * In such cases, choose times when all (or nearly all) of your voting members will be present, when there is ample time to properly discuss the issue at hand, and when everyone will be able to give the matter their full attention. Otherwise, you'll find that you are making decisions "on the run" without proper consultation and prayer. Also, be careful about what business matters you discuss in the presence of children, and don't let these short decision-making sessions develop into full-fledged Home Council Meetings.

       * It is important that the Home member who originated the point is in agreement with the decision to discuss and vote on it outside of an official Home Council Meeting. If they feel it is not possible to do the subject justice in a short, informal discussion, it is their right under the Charter to have it addressed in an official Home meeting.

       * As in your official Home Council Meetings, any matters discussed and voted upon in this manner are not final until all voting members have been consulted; those who are not present will also be affected by the decision and therefore must be informed and given a chance to vote.

Defining Roles
       The first step in establishing ground rules for your meetings is to define the roles of both the person leading the meeting and the other participants.

The moderator
       * The person leading the meeting, whom we will refer to as "the moderator," has five main responsibilities:
       1) State (or ask someone else to state) each agenda point in clear, concise terms.
       2) Remain impartial.
       3) Ensure that everyone who wishes to express an opinion has an opportunity to do so.
       4) Keep the discussion focused and progressing until all sides have been considered.
       5) Conduct the final voting.

       * Dad summed up the moderator's role this way: "Open the meeting and present the problem and ask for discussion. Then frame it into a motion or resolution and take a vote on it, and be sure you have appointed somebody to carry it out" (ML #297:76).

       * As much as possible, participation in each point of discussion should be balanced; the moderator may need to encourage quieter members to speak up, and temper those who would otherwise monopolize the discussion. The moderator is also responsible to make sure that people of differing views all have a chance to bring up other sides of the question being considered.

       * If the discussion begins to drag on or get bogged down, the moderator may need to summarize what's already been said, or ask someone else to do so. This helps to clarify the issues and get things rolling again.

       * The moderator must be careful not to impose his or her own views on the other participants or sway the meeting in any way that would show favoritism towards one particular side of the discussion. It is usually therefore best that the moderator stay neutral and not express any personal opinion until everyone else has had a chance to speak, and then present only new factors that no one else has brought up.

       * At the end of the discussion, the moderator should restate the original question, followed by a list of the possible courses of action to be voted on, and then conduct the vote. (See also: "Tips for Moderators" on pg.17.)

The participant
       * The participant's role is precisely that--to participate in the discussion by sharing clearly and concisely his knowledge, experience, ideas, opinion or leading on the subject at hand. Each participant is also expected to:
       1) enter in without dominating the discussion,
       2) keep an open mind and pay close attention when others are speaking,
       3) be courteous when presenting his or her opinion and when responding to the opinions of others, and
       4) give prayerful consideration to opposing views.

       * The participant's goal: To work with the other members of the Home in finding what they believe to be the Lord's will regarding the matter being discussed, and to agree on a course of action.

       * All participants should be considered equals.

       * Everyone should feel responsible to speak up if they have thoughts or information that could be important to the final decision. The moderator may need to call upon more reticent members from time to time in order to help draw out their opinions.

Ground Rules
       Establishing ground rules will help your meetings flow more smoothly and be more productive. Perhaps not all of the following points will work well in your Home, and meetings can vary considerably, even when the same people are involved. So please pray, counsel and be Spirit-led as you adapt these tips to your Home. Too few rules can lead to chaos, but too many rules can quench the Spirit. Find a good balance that works for you.
       Not all meetings are the same. Sometimes you may need to depart from the norm, so be ready to waive or modify your ground rules when special needs arise. When this happens, it's important to agree at the onset of the meeting about how it will be conducted.

Time limits for topics
       * At the beginning of your meeting, you may want to establish how much time you want to allow for discussion and voting on each agenda topic, according to the number of items you have to cover. This can not only help you get through your agenda, but can also help ensure that some subjects don't drag on too long.

       * If you agree to time limits, you will probably want to appoint a timekeeper to remind everyone when the allotted time is running out for discussion of any given topic, bearing in mind that you will also need time to vote. Having a timekeeper is also a help to the moderator who would have a difficult time staying attentive to what people are saying while also keeping an eye on the time.

       * If you run out of time before everyone who wants to say something has had an opportunity to do so, and you are not at a point where you can bring the topic of discussion to a vote, there are basically three things you can do:
       1) agree to extend the closing time for your meeting in order to spend more time on that point,
       2) agree to postpone discussion of one of the lower-priority points on your agenda until your next meeting, or
       3) agree to continue your discussion of the unfinished point at your next meeting.
       The moderator can determine this by asking for a show of hands. If the first option receives the most votes (you agree to extend your meeting time), a second quick vote could determine how long you want to extend your Council Meeting.

       * Setting time limits has its downside. Some points naturally require more deliberation than others, and if the discussion is pushed along too quickly, some members who are slower to comment or react might feel frustrated in not having ample time to present their views, hear out others or make prayerful decisions. This may also cause some to hold ill feelings afterwards or not fully support the final decisions.

       * If you stick too rigidly to time limits and don't get time to cover a subject to everyone's satisfaction, and then try to force a vote, it can lead to faulty decisions or opposing views coming out later. When either of these happens, the topic will probably need to be re-discussed and brought to another vote, and it will take longer to correct the situation than it would have taken to get it right the first time. So be Spirit-led.

Time limits for speakers
       * In some cases, you may also choose to set time limits on how long each speaker may have to present his or her points. However, no one should feel so under pressure to present their points so quickly that they become flustered or leave things out. Therefore it is often best to not set time limits for people to give their first opinion. In the absence of time limits, everyone will need to be extra considerate and try not to be long-winded.

       * After everyone has had a chance to speak, some people may have something more to say in response to something a later speaker brought up. This second round of discussion is where time limits are often helpful. Again, whether you set time limits at this stage will probably depend on the subject being discussed, the number of people present, how vocal they are, the number of subjects yet to be discussed, etc.

       * Rather than setting time limits for speakers from the start, the moderator may opt for a show of hands on whether or not to impose time limits if the meeting is in danger of getting off schedule.

       * If time limits are set, it is important that everyone respects them.

       * Someone will need to be assigned timekeeper to remind people when their speaking time is up.

Presenting agenda topics
       When it comes time to present a new agenda point, there are a number of ways this can be done:
       1) Ask the person who submitted an agenda point to present it to the council. This might help them feel more a part of the decision-making process than if their suggestion is presented by the teamwork or moderator, who may not be as involved or as knowledgeable, or who might present it in a different light.
       2) The person who presented a certain point may prefer to remain anonymous or may feel the moderator could do a better job of presenting it to the Home. Perhaps it's best to give the person who originated the topic the choice of presenting it themselves or having someone else do so.
       3) If several people have already carefully considered the issue and come up with a list of basic pros and cons, perhaps they could present it together from different angles.
       4) An "expert" in the field could be called upon to present a particular point, giving a clear and well-rounded picture, explaining both pros and cons.
       5) To add variety to your meeting, some agenda points could even be introduced via short skits.

       * If bad news must be shared, present it as positively as possible. Some people are better at this than others. Give this job to someone with the gift of speaking and inspiring faith. Suppose, for example, you've had a major financial setback. Your finance deacon may have the best grasp of the facts and figures, but perhaps someone else could better set a positive tone for the discussion by giving an initial explanation, bringing out a Romans 8:28, and/or claiming a few verses or quotes, etc.

       * Whichever way you choose to present each agenda point, it should be done clearly, factually, and in as interesting a manner as possible.

Needed: Christian Graces!
       Some of the essential ingredients in meetings are outlined in Galatians 5:22-23, where the Apostle Paul enumerates the fruits of the Spirit. Just as we appreciate others being considerate and understanding when we express our viewpoint, so should we show the same "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance" when they are talking.

       * Communication should be non-confrontational and non-defensive. This is not to say that conflicts will never occur in Home meetings, but if and when they do, they should be resolved amicably. Everyone should feel free to express differences and disagreements openly and in faith, but remember that your common objective is to find positive solutions.

       * Be prayerful about what you say and how you say it. Don't be rash, critical, vindictive or stubborn. Learn to offer an opposing opinion diplomatically. Disagree if you must, but do so politely. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Don't just say, "I completely disagree!" Instead say, "I can see your point, but on the other side I feel ... " or, "I appreciate what So-and-so brought out, and I might say the same in another situation, but ... " or, "That would accommodate a number of people, but we might also want to consider ... ." Don't be argumentative or nit-picky. (See "Dad's Good Sample in Conversation," Maria #31, DB3.)

       * Avoid sarcasm and cynicism. You may think that what someone said is humorous or absurd, but to that person a careless remark or giggle could be very hurtful. This often happens when Home members are too familiar with each other. Cutting humor is never in order, but especially not in Council Meetings where people may already feel self-conscious about trying to express their thoughts to so many people.

       * Certain topics may be more sensitive to some individuals than others. Take a moment to consider how what you are about to say may affect others, and be considerate of their feelings.

       * Occasionally there may be a need to explain something to someone sitting beside you, but this should be done unobtrusively, and in a whisper. If your conversation becomes distracting to the person speaking or to the moderator, the moderator may have to stop the main discussion until you finish.

       * When presenting an opinion or viewpoint, avoid statements which make it sound as though you represent a vast group of people. Phrases to avoid include: "I am sure I speak for everybody here when I say ... " or "All the teens feel ... " or "We all know ... " or "Everybody wants to ...." Speak for yourself, not for your whole Home, for your whole field, or for the world! Ha!

       * In presenting your opinion, leave yourself open. Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant; there are many sides to every situation.

       * Participate actively, but don't take more than your fair share of the time allotted, at least not until all the other members have had a chance to express themselves.

       * Don't interrupt, or shout out when someone else is speaking. Raise your hand, and wait to be called upon. Take turns.

       * Listen to others with interest and respect. Expect others' opinions to be enlightening, and you'll not only get a better understanding of the situation, but your love and appreciation for your fellow Home members will grow as well. A certain diversity of opinion is a strength, not a weakness.

       * Those not directly involved in a certain project, ministry or problem are often able to see the situation from a fresh perspective and approach it more positively than those who are immersed in it, so their input is especially important.

       * Most Homes have their conservatives and liberals. (Of course, some may be liberal on one topic and conservative on another!) This is great if they can learn to work together and balance one another. But if those who are generally like-minded consistently band together or vote as a block, that could be the first sign of "political parties" forming in your Home! "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph.4:3).

       * Vote unselfishly. What's best for the most people involved? Put the welfare and wishes of others first. (See Ph.2:4 and Ga.6:2.)

       * A round of hugs at the end of a particularly sensitive or vociferous discussion can be inspiring, unifying and help people to leave their differences of opinions behind as they go on with the next part of their day.

Time Savers
       * Perhaps the biggest time saver is for everyone to learn not to repeat what other people have already said. Oftentimes to show support, people will "dupe" or paraphrase an opinion which someone else has already given. It's good for them to say so if they agree with someone else, as that could indicate a consensus is being formed, but if they don't have anything new to add, all that they really need to say is that they "second" what So-and-so said. And if they agree and want to enlarge on that point, rather than restate the point in full, they can begin by simply saying, "I agree with So-and-so, and would like to add the following ... " This makes it clear that they are building on an established viewpoint, and helps them to do so quickly.

       * Sometimes people may want to offer a personal anecdote in confirmation of what someone else has said, but in most cases such testimonies should be avoided or kept very short. Otherwise this can really drag out the discussion.

       * If the moderator feels someone is duping or merely confirming what someone else has already said, he or she should sweetly tell them that the point has been covered. Perhaps the moderator could say something like, "We understand that you agree with (or wish to confirm) what So-and-so said. Do you have any new points to make?"

       * Also, sometimes speakers dupe themselves by going on and on, or repeating their point for emphasis or in an attempt to clarify. In the process, they can weary their listeners and waste everyone's time. Try to present each point as concisely as possible. Again, the moderator may need to say something to speakers who repeat themselves.

       * If, midway through the discussion, most of the comments seem to be leaning one direction, the moderator may feel that enough has been said for that side. If that is the case, the moderator may be able to speed up the discussion by saying something like, "Does anyone have anything new to say in support of that position?--If not, shall we hear what anyone has to say on the other side of the issue before bringing this to a vote?"

       * Another time saver is to cut the little introductory phrases that we often use, such as: "I don't know if this is such a good idea ... " or "Maybe this is obvious ... " or "There is one thing that I wanted to say ... " Believe it or not, those rhetorical phrases can fill quite a bit of time over the course of a meeting.

       * Another way to save time and prevent a dragged-out discussion, depending on the topic, is to ask for a specified limited number of pros and cons on the subject (say two or three on each side) and then bring it to a vote. The council members would need to agree to this beforehand. This enables you to quickly get through agenda points that all agree they would like to hear opinions on, but not necessarily discuss at length.

Don't Add Weight to Your Opinion!
       *One way that we sometimes try to add weight to our opinions is to "drop names." We simply borrow a little authority by saying, "When I was in such-and-such a Home, one of the CROs visited when we were facing the very same problem. The answer she gave was ..." or, "When I attended a delegates meeting, the leader said that in a similar situation Mama had suggested such-and-such." The problem with name-dropping is that it puts others in a position where they feel like they can't disagree or interject opposing views without appearing to go against the leader being quoted and their counsel.

       *It can even be overbearing to say, "The Lord showed me ... " because it leaves no room for discussion.

       *Another way that we sometimes try to add weight to our opinions is by quoting verses or referring to the Letters. We should be looking to the Word for solutions and leadings, of course, but we don't want to use the Word unwisely or in an overbearing manner, simply to add clout to our own opinions. If we're not careful to present the Word in a spirit of meekness, others will feel like they can't disagree with us without going against the Word.
       In reality, the Word is black and white on very few matters. Often equally convincing passages can be found to substantiate more than one view. In order to reach well-rounded decisions, we need to learn to welcome an array of opposing views. Likewise, we cannot rightly apply the Word until we have considered what it has to say on all sides of the matter.
       If someone seems to be using the Word to try to railroad their plan or force their viewpoint on others, perhaps the moderator could ask if anyone can think of any Word to support the other side.
       If examples from the Word don't come quickly to mind, you probably won't have time during your meeting to dig into the Word together. When there is a controversy about how a topic is addressed in the Word, or you don't have enough from the Word on hand to give a well-rounded picture, you may want to appoint a subcommittee to do a Word study and present their findings at a later date, before putting the matter to a vote. In order to get balanced counsel from the Word, choose people for your subcommittee who are either undecided in the matter or who presently hold opposing views. If the matter is timely, you need not wait for another Home Council Meeting for them to present their findings. Perhaps your subcommittee can read highlights after your united devotions or post them on the Home bulletin board.

Sensitive Subjects
       * The moderator may want to preface discussion of some sensitive topics with a brief explanation to foster understanding and unity.

       * The Home teamwork might want to do some extra preparation before presenting a potentially sensitive topic. For example, if personnel moves are on the agenda, the teamwork will probably want to meet with those directly involved to discuss their burdens and the basic options available.

       * If a certain agenda topic is especially sensitive for someone, they may want to discuss this with the moderator (or a teamworker) before the meeting. Perhaps they would rather not attend that part of the meeting, which is fine. In that case, someone else could cast their absentee vote if they wish. Whether they attend or not, they may feel more comfortable putting their feelings on paper and asking the moderator or someone else to read or articulate their point for them.

       * People may be more comfortable with a secret ballot or closed-eyes vote than an open show of hands.

       * If sensitive or controversial issues come up unexpectedly in the course of your meeting, you may want to put off the discussion till later.

       * Some agenda topics can be referred to a subcommittee in advance of the meeting. The subcommittee can then do preliminary research and present their findings to the rest of the Home Council the next time you meet.
       For example, the teachers and parents could discuss the pros and cons of an alternative home-schooling course, then come to the meeting with some concrete proposals regarding scheduling and costs.

       * You can subcommittee topics when further research is needed in either the Word or practical details before the Home is ready to bring the matter to a vote. In some cases the topic can be put to a preliminary vote by phrasing the question something like this: "How many people feel this proposal is worth considering, and would like to appoint a subcommittee to do more research?" If a majority feels it is worth pursuing, set a time for the subcommittee to report their findings.
       For example, the teens want to go on a road trip. The adults agree in principle, but would like to know where the teens want to go, how long they'll be away, how they plan to cover their home duties while they are gone, what equipment, tools and/or funds they will need to take, etc. If the teens and accompanying adults meet separately and decide on a workable plan to present, they are likely to get the consent of the rest of the voting members of the Home, and with little further discussion.

       * Assign topics to subcommittees when part of the Home is more directly affected by the outcome than others.
       For example, someone proposes monthly outings for the parents and kids on Family Day. The rest of the Home may agree in principle, but would like to review a list of possible options and related costs before committing themselves. In this example, the parents would be likely candidates for the outing subcommittee.

       * Reminder: Decisions reached by subcommittees require ratification by the rest of the voting members of the Home. Topics discussed in subcommittees need to be on the agenda of a later Home Council Meeting, discussed and voted on.

Tips for Moderators
       * Everyone should be given equal opportunity to freely express their opinions and leadings. To that end, it is more important for the person leading the meeting to draw out others' counsel than it is to speak his or her own mind.

       * For most of us, the role of moderator is quite a switch from the past, when those leading the meeting often dominated the discussion. In that sense, a good moderator does not "lead" the meeting. Instead, think of the moderator as "traffic controller." It is his or her job to keep the discussion orderly, and guide it to a vote.

       * It is not necessary for Home teamworkers to always be the ones to moderate Home meetings. Depending on the topics being discussed, you may choose different people to moderate different meetings, or even different topics in the same meeting. For example, if the moderator wishes to play an active part in the discussion about a particular point, it might be best if he or she lets someone else act as moderator while that point is being talked over and voted upon.

Calling on people
       * As soon as the moderator has stated the topic or problem to be discussed, some people will probably have an opinion or something to say. Others will think of things to contribute as the discussion progresses. Especially if there are more than about five or six people present, the moderator will need to follow some procedure to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to speak. This can be handled in one of several ways:
       1) Those who have something to share can raise their hands and the moderator can then jot down each person's name and then call upon them in that order. One advantage to this system is that as soon as someone has raised their hand and the moderator has taken down their name and acknowledged them with a nod, the participant can tune back into what others are saying, knowing that their turn will come.
       2) Go around the circle. Those who have nothing to say when it is their turn can be passed over and offered another chance to speak the next time around or at the end of the discussion. If you use this procedure, you will probably want to go around the circle clockwise during the discussion of one topic and counterclockwise during the next. That way, the same people do not always speak first.
       3) If your council is small, say half a dozen or less, people may not even need to raise their hand. The discussion can simply take place in a normal conversational fashion. This might even work in larger meetings if you know each other well and everyone feels comfortable with that arrangement.
       4) You may or may not want to first call on your Home's "experts" in the field being discussed, such as childcare, finances, etc. The upside is that you will probably get much of your main input quickly; the downside is that others may feel less free to voice dissenting views.

       * You may find it refreshing to follow one procedure during one discussion or entire meeting, and another for the next. Variety is the spice of life!

       * Whichever method the moderator uses, it is important to stick to it as consistently as possible. Otherwise, the participants will most likely be preoccupied with thoughts about if or when they will be called upon, and therefore miss what others are saying. There will be exceptions, of course, such as when someone may need to speak out of turn in order to clarify a point or interject timely information.

Managing the meeting
       * Remember, people are more important than the subject matter. In a business meeting such as a Home Council Meeting, the natural tendency is to concentrate on reaching decisions on as many of your agenda points as possible. You may make a lot of decisions, but if Home members are hurt in the process, the meeting may actually be a giant step backwards. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city" (Pro.18:19).

       * The moderator may need to summarize or clarify certain points which people bring out if they weren't presented very clearly the first time.

       * The moderator may need to stop occasionally to ask everybody if they are happy with the way the discussion is going. This is sometimes referred to as "meeting maintenance." If you don't stop occasionally for a little routine maintenance, you may end up like the driver who was in such a hurry to get to his destination that he didn't stop to get his car checked at the first sign of trouble, and therefore blew up his engine and never got there!

       * It is the moderator's responsibility to gently and lovingly hold people to the ground rules which your Home has adopted. For example, "Let's all try to stick to our agreed time limit for each speaker." Or people may need reminders to wait their turn and/or not cut others off.

       * You may want to review your ground rules at the beginning of some Council Meetings.

       * Again, the moderator's main job is to draw counsel from others until the pros and cons on a given topic have been explained, and then put the issue to a vote. An important part of the moderating process takes place in the transition between discussion and voting; the moderator must know when the discussion has gone as far as it can go, and then must clearly explain the options and phrase the final question(s) before taking a vote.

Keeping things on track!
       * If the discussion goes off on a tangent, steer it back on course by repeating the original proposal or question, and summarizing the progress so far. Encourage everyone to make each comment count toward the decision you are trying to reach.

       * If your meeting is interrupted for any reason, take a moment before you resume your discussion to summarize what's already been said on the topic at hand.

       * Chances are, the longer you discuss a topic, the more people will repeat what others have already said and the easier it will be to get sidetracked on insignificant details. A skillful moderator knows just when to wrap things up and bring the issue to a vote--not until all the pros and cons have been presented and everyone has had an opportunity to speak, but before the discussion digresses.

Draw out quieter members
{\b \i        }* In nearly every group there will be some people who are talkative by nature and have no problem expressing their views, and others who are quieter but will make valuable contributions to your meeting if drawn out. "Don't take silence as agreement. Find out what the silent, thoughtful people are thinking. The quiet ones are often nursing valuable ideas or insights" (HTL, pg.153). Stop occasionally and seek the opinions of those who have not participated much by calling on them and asking them if they have any thoughts on the matter.

       * On certain topics, a few people may become quite absorbed in the discussion, while other council members may have a hard time relating or feel they know so little about the topic at hand that they have a hard time concentrating or entering in. When this happens, everyone needs to put forth a little more effort. Those who are full of their subject should be careful to speak in terms that the others will understand, sometimes even backtracking to clarify what they've said. Those who find the subject foreign or perhaps a bit boring will need to stir themselves up, to listen and pay attention. The moderator will need to take extra care that everyone is getting what is being said.

       * If your meeting hits a snag where some members begin to withdraw or others are being overbearing or monopolizing the discussion, the moderator may need to call a time-out to diagnose the problem and get things back on track.

       * Everyone should be respectful and considerate of others present, but the moderator's demeanor can go a long way in setting a loving tone for the meeting. Part of this is adopting the mind-set that there are no dumb questions and no dumb opinions--that everyone has something to say that is worth listening to.

       * Respectfully acknowledge each contribution to the discussion. Short, simple, reassuring comments can be a big encouragement to those who are just learning to express themselves in Home Council Meetings. "Thank you for sharing that." "That was interesting." "That's a good point." "Thank you bringing up a new factor." This is especially important if the person's comments received a less than enthusiastic response from others in the meeting.

       * If someone gets muddled, the moderator can help them express themselves by summarizing or paraphrasing what the person said. "If I understand, you mean such-and-such."

       * Participants who naturally take the lead can also help draw out quieter members by making an effort not to express their viewpoints too strongly nor too early in the discussion.

       * When someone has not finished their point, and the discussion veers off in another direction, the moderator should be sure to get back to that person, so they can finish, if need be.

The moderator's participation
       * The surest way for the moderator to remain impartial is to wait until everyone else has spoken before sharing his or her own thoughts on the matter. By that time, chances are that someone else will have expressed those views and the moderator need not say anything. In fact, reiterating others' points violates the "no duping" guideline.

       * The moderator is responsible to share his or her views if no one else has taken that position or shared those points. This is particularly important if the moderator is especially knowledgeable on the subject being discussed. Also, his vote may be needed to break a tie.

       * The moderator should stay positive and upbeat.

       * The moderator should stay emotionally detached from the subject. It's virtually impossible for the moderator to concentrate or keep the discussion balanced and on course if he or she is emotionally involved, or has a very strong opinion on the matter.

       * The moderator should try to keep the meeting from getting too dry or businesslike. A little humor at the right time may help relieve tensions and/or make the meeting more enjoyable for everyone.

Impasses and other awkward situations
       * If the discussion of a certain point is not going so well, stop for a brief word of prayer. Ask the Lord to clear the air, give fresh insight into the problem at hand, and bolster your unity.

       * If someone brings up a point that is likely to cause the discussion to swerve off on a tangent, ask for a show of hands to determine if the majority of the council wants to pursue that train of thought, or save it for another time.

       * Define the trouble spot, and do so as diplomatically as possible. Is it a good point, but coming at the wrong time? Is it something that should be discussed privately or looked into by a subcommittee before bringing it before the Home Council? Fix the problem, not the blame!

       * Don't force decisions. Sometimes you may need to table the discussion and/or postpone voting on a certain point to give everyone more time for research or prayer.

       * If there's a particularly strong difference of opinion and your agenda does not allow time to ask the Lord to speak on the issue, you may want to appoint a team and/or another time to do so.

       * Is there a compromise solution which everyone would be happy with? "One of the most important trips a man can make is that involved in meeting the other fellow halfway" (MOP 104:8).

       * Try to accommodate everyone, including the dissenters, whenever possible and practical. The more people that are happy with the final decision, the easier it will be to carry it out. "Even if the majority refuses to listen to the minority, the majority will be in trouble! Every government has to heed the voice of its minority as well, because to have a successful kingdom, any kind of kingdom, you must not only try to keep the majority happy, but you must also try to please the minority and keep them happy too, as much as possible. In other words, you must try to keep everybody happy" (ML #263:74,75).

       * "The only way to settle a disagreement is on the basis of what's right--not who's right" (MOP 104:6).

       * Remind people that they are free to change their position. The main point of conferring is to help everyone come to a better understanding of the problems at hand. No one should ever feel awkward or embarrassed about voting contrary to the position they took during the discussion, if others have convinced them otherwise.

       * If people begin to look bored or disinterested, try to determine the cause. Is someone monopolizing the discussion? Is it time for a stretch, a potty break, a drink of water or a little more air? Is a little comic relief in order? As a last resort, remind people that it is their meeting and they will be affected by whatever decisions are made.

When Is It Time to Rely on Prophecy for YourDecision-making?
       * In "Prophecy Questions You May Have Always Wanted to Ask!--Part 1," GN 655, Peter explains:

       It is not necessary to seal every decision with prophecy, nor to ask the Lord for a confirmation in prophecy for every decision. However, all decisions should be made with prayer and counsel. Important and/or major decisions should be brought before the Lord for prophecy.
       In decision-making, our goal is to find the Lord's will, so we should bring the Lord into every phase of our decision-making. But this does not mean that we have to hear from the Lord in prophecy about every decision.
       The Lord said, however, that "when you come together to discuss a matter and to make a decision which is of importance or that will have more far-reaching effects, you should also let Me have My vote." He said, "I also want to speak and confirm your choices, and I want you to seek My confirmation." In the smaller, more routine matters, though, He said, "I don't want you to take halting steps, and with every little step stop and ask Me [EDITED: "to speak in prophecy"] which way to go. But I want you to give Me times to speak and open up the channel so that I may have the opportunity to speak."
       So apparently He wishes for us to seek His guidance and counsel through prophecy when there are important decisions to be made so that we can see His point of view and that He can confirm the choices we are making. But He does not expect us to ask Him for prophecies about every little thing, as He has also given us other ways to find His will. He said, "You also have need of wisdom and discernment and faith and other gifts of the Spirit. One shall complement another, and each should be given their place." However, we should make sure we are giving the Lord enough opportunity to speak to us in prophecy when it is warranted.
       In our Homes we do a great deal through counseling together, which is good, "For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in a multitude of counselors there is safety" (Pro. 24:6). The Lord said, "Through prayer and supplication and prayerful deliberations ... I can speak through you ... to establish My will. There will be times when I will speak to you and through you in Godly counsel ... but if a matter is serious, then I beseech you to call upon Me." So if it's a major or important decision that needs to be made, you should take the time to stop and listen to Him speak in prophecy. However, at other times He will speak through your own words and thoughts as you engage in prayerful Godly counsel, etc.
       The most important aspect of decision-making is prayer. Whether there is prophecy or not, there definitely needs to be prayer and giving the Lord the opportunity to lead and guide by His Spirit. He said that when you take the time to listen, "I may show you other factors which in your own reasoning have not been able to come to the surface." He also said that "in order to receive the counseling of those in the Spirit World, you must take time to hear from Me. You must take time to listen to the whispers."
       He pointed out that when there's a conflict of opinion on a matter, it is best to bring the matter before the Lord for prophecy. "When a matter brings about great dispute, and even disunity or conflict, then stop and look and listen to My voice."
       As brought out above, though it is not necessary to ask the Lord to speak in prophecy about every matter, it is wise to do so on important ones. However, it is vital to pray over each decision if we want God's counsel and guidance. "Pray without ceasing, for prayer is your link to My throne. Therefore, keep this connection strong, and as you deliberate and counsel, I will be with you." (ML #3019:58-65).

       * Don't attempt to have prophecy right in the middle of a discussion in which people are strongly divided. It is difficult or impossible to let go of preconceived ideas under such circumstances. Have your prophecy meeting later when everyone has had a little time to distance themselves from the subject matter.

Reaching Decisions
       * Once everyone has had an opportunity to speak and/or it becomes clear that no new information or views are being presented, then it's time for the moderator to ask if the discussion can be closed. Those who still have questions or something new to add should be allowed to ask or interject their new point.

       * Sometimes after the discussion when the moderator is calling the vote, or sometimes even after a vote has been completed, someone will raise their hand with an opinion and point to express. The moderator can then ask everyone if they want to hear what the person has to say, or if they want to just go on to the vote, or to the next topic.

       * Next, you may want to ask for a show of hands to determine how many people are ready to vote. At this point some people may still be undecided, and if so, it is probably for one of two reasons: Either they don't care which way the vote goes, or they feel that an equally strong case has been made on both sides of the issue and want more time to pray about it.

       * Those who feel they would be just as happy with either outcome are free to abstain from voting, so that does not pose a problem. But if a fairly important matter is being considered and a number of members are still not ready to vote, you may decide together to postpone the vote until you've had more time to prayerfully consider the pros and cons, hear from the Lord, look in the Word or find out more about the practical considerations involved, etc.

       * Those who did not vote with the majority on any given issue are expected to abide by and cheerfully cooperate with the decision and its implementation. Continuing to voice dissent after the fact undermines the unity of the Home.

       * If new factors come up which could reverse the thinking of some members, the matter can be re-submitted as a topic for another Home Council Meeting, re-discussed and re-voted on.

Implementing Home Council Decisions
       * Bell the cat! This expression comes from an anecdote about some mice who met to discuss what to do about a cat in the house which was rapidly reducing the mouse population. After they had discussed the matter at length, one mouse suggested that a bell be placed around the cat's neck so that they would be forewarned of the cat's presence. The mice all thought that was a splendid idea, and voted unanimously to do just that. So excited were they to have found the perfect solution to their problem, that another mouse suggested they plan a victory celebration. "Very well," said the mouse who was moderating the meeting, "but first, who will volunteer to bell the cat?"

       * Home Council decisions, like all great ideas, "need landing gear as well as wings" (MOP 129:15). What steps need to be taken in order to enact this decision? Be specific. What will be done? How, when, where and by whom? If you don't have time in your meeting to discuss and decide on a course of action, appoint a committee to do so. "What's everybody's business is nobody's business! So unless you appoint a person or committee of two or three to carry it out, it will never get done" (ML #297:77).

       * "A goal doesn't become a goal until you have set a deadline for its accomplishment. When you have a major goal to accomplish, break it down into sub-goals, and put deadlines on them too!" (HTGTD, pg.12).

       * Following through on Home Council decisions will inspire faith in future meetings and the Home in general. Knowing that "what we decide here gets done" is a great morale booster!

       * Those who are assigned to carry out Home decisions should get a copy of the meeting notes that pertain to the points they are responsible for.

       * It may be helpful to have a teamworker also assigned to follow up on each decision, to act as a counselor to the one(s) directly responsible and to act as a double-check that it gets done. "Your organization should have a check-and-double-check system which makes sure that no stone is left unturned, and no item neglected, no job left only to one person's discretion without supervision" (MOP 1:87).

       * A childcare representative or someone else should be assigned to explain to the children any Home Council decisions which will affect them. This will make them feel included and help avoid misunderstandings or double standards.

       At the Close of the Meeting
       * Summarize the main points covered and decisions reached.

       * List any unfinished business. If you were not able to cover all the points on your agenda, these items will need to be carried over to your next Home Council Meeting. If that meeting will be the last opportunity to discuss these matters before the 15-day limit mandated by the Charter, they will probably need to be placed at the top of the next agenda. (See Responsibilities and Rights of Individual Members, 3.D, pg.18.)

After the Meeting
       * Post the meeting notes on your DO bulletin board as a reminder to all of the decisions that were reached.

       * The teamwork may find it helpful to prayerfully evaluate the meeting. They may also want to present to the rest of the council members their thoughts as to what could be done differently or better next time.

       * "There are two ways of judging the success of a meeting: First, what happened? Did you get the results you wanted? Second, how did the meeting go?--Look at the process of the meeting. How did problems get solved? How did decisions get made? How well did the group work together? How did people feel about the meeting? Did people draw and build on each other's ideas, or was the meeting a battle of egos? ... After the meeting is over, sit down in a quiet corner and make 2 lists: (1) Everything you did right, and (2) everything you did wrong or could have done better. Then put it on file for the next meeting. Your recommendations for how to do it better and hopefully quicker next time can save a lot of time and energy! Also have everyone who attended make suggestions for the next meeting. [EDITED: "After doing this for a few meetings, you probably will arrive at a formula/procedure for conducting meetings that works well in your Home."] PTL! Happy Meetings!" (HTL, pgs.152,154).



       We cannot even say we have no need of one little member! You even need every fingernail, every cell as well as every organ and every limb, and you need to all work together for the glory of God! ... Let's try to do what we all think is best together. ... For every member is needed and everyone is important, from the lowliest to the mightiest, from the most insignificant to the most seemingly important, from the most obscure to the most obvious--everyone is essential, everyone is important, everyone has his job, everyone is needed, and all must work together in unity and harmony and cooperation with agreement.
       So again, we say unto you, get it together! For God's sake, and your sake, let's get it together!--Talk together, discuss together, counsel together, agree together, decide together, love together, go together, do together, bear together, care together, grow together, work together and enjoy the fruits of our labors together! (ML #263:77-79,81).

       [EDITED: "End"]

Copyright 1996 The Family