EPISODE #92 – ROBERT’S RULES W/ SPECIAL GUEST CRAIG CULBREATH
The guys are back from the #SBC21 in Nashville. Aside from being a bit concerned about their “review” powers Jimbo confesses that all the Robert’s Rules of Order steps had him simultaneously confused and amazed so we reached out to, none other than the Baptist Bouncer himself, Craig Culbreath who served on the SBC Parliamentary team.
Craig offered his insights into why your church business meetings need structure, what role Robert’s rules play, when to set them aside and if a Pastor should serve as a moderator or not.
This is gonna be a helpful one to many, give it a listen.
- What is the benefit of parliamentary procedure for a small church?
- Should you use Robert’s Rules for every decision and every business meeting?
- What do you do when meetings erupt into conflict?
- Where can you find help if you’re not sure what to do?
A Parliamentary Guide for Churches by Barry McCarty
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Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: All right here, we are back at it again of the replant boot camp, post SBC, and Bob. There’s a lot of things we could talk about in the SBC, but I have to bring up something completely random.
Craig Culbreth: Okay.
Bob Bickford: All right. I’m a little concerned about what it might be, but here we go.
Craig Culbreth: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: We, we may need to consider no longer giving negative reviews of places on our podcast, because at one point we gave maybe some negative reviews of what’s cooking and then. What’s cooking got shut down by the health department. Right. Then we came on here and I shared a story about going to adventure landing on Blanding avenue with my son, for his birthday.
All of a sudden I get an article today that they are going, they have gone bankrupt and they are shutting down. This Sunday will be the last Sunday of adventure landing on Blanding avenue. So while our podcast is not that huge, I’m feeling like maybe we’ve got more reach and impact than we ever considered.
[00:01:00] Bob Bickford: Jimbo you might be. Right. So, um, when I was flying to Nashville, Uh, Barbara and I, it was going to be tight. We had to leave at a particular time. We going to grab dinner at the St. Louis airport and like all airports COVID is really shuttered Mo many of the restaurants. And so there was one that was open and we rolled in there and the kitchen is closed.
You can, you can drink alcohol, but we can’t do that Jimbo because we worked for Nan and like it’s against the, uh, you know, I forget which resolution it is, but some resolution back in. It says we can do it. And you know, when in debate all that anyway, so we rather than buy a pad pre-packaged salad or sandwich, we roll into another place and grab lunch.
And so, because I’m a Yelp elite Jimbo, as you know, I simply fired out, uh, uh, Hey, I wish the restaurant would have noted that they were, they, there was no food, blah, blah, blah. Landon Nashville pop up. My phone and Yelp has notified me that the owner of the [00:02:00] restaurant has responded to my critique. It just let me say Jimbo.
He was not happy. He was not happy. And so, uh, I had to delete my Yelp review. So I’m going to take that caution. And I’m going to take that as a friendly amendment Jimbo.
JimBo Stewart: we go. There we go. We look, we have some serious, I guess, power here, um, uh, on, on our recommendations. So we gotta be careful. Uh, Hey look, jumping in. One of the things I noticed at SBC is, um, I am not well-versed in parliamentary procedure. And there were moments of the SVC that were difficult to sit through because they.
Overly rigorous. Uh, at one point I, I very much appreciated the heart of what the guy was trying to do, but we spent 20 minutes debating whether we could add minutes to the agenda and [00:03:00] it, at some point it felt very self-defeating right. And so for somebody who is not a very detail oriented process oriented mindset, that that was mentally rigorous for me.
But. Here’s what I would say. There were so many other moments in the SBC that I really was grateful for parliamentary procedure, because I thought. This many people, this much, maybe contention or division over certain issues. It really provided a healthy framework for getting things done for discussion, for making motions.
And you had all sorts of things from very serious weighty, deep things to the sweet moment where a little girl asked, how do you make VBS? And how much does it cost? Right. And, and I loved Lively’s response to her answer and that it gave everybody a voice. Uh, not everybody. We ran out of time at different points, but anyway, here’s what it got me thinking. [00:04:00] We’ve shared some stories. We have an episode on here of how not to change the name of your church, where I talk about the worst business meeting I ever ran. And it was actually, it was after that business meeting that I decided I should probably read Robert’s rules of order and just figure out what this stuff is.
Right. Cause I, I looked back, I thought, man, if I’d have had some structure to this meeting, it would have gone. Significantly smoother. Right? Uh, and so today, even if you’re not SPC, I think this is going to be a beneficial episode. We have a very special guest, Bob. I don’t know if you noticed him standing right behind you as you were talking a little too long there for a second, but the honorable Dr.
Craig. Is Ellen with us, uh, who has been, uh, memorialized on the internet as the Baptist bouncer, the guy that makes sure we keep everything in line. One of the parliamentarians for the Southern Baptist convention. Craig, thank you so much for [00:05:00] taking time to be on this episode with us.
Craig Culbreth: Well, thanks Tim Timbo. It’s an honor to be here with you guys. And, uh, so far neither one I’d have gone over your limit. So I haven’t had to tap anybody. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Hey, I just want to say the first time that I saw Craig, uh, was I think it was either St. Louis or Dallas and Craig, I don’t know if this is part of your training, but are you supposed to, as an associate parliamentarian or whatever your title is, are you supposed to look like you could kill anybody at any second because you were scared of me over the shoulder of the president.
Craig Culbreth: That’s as JB and others have. And Steve Gaines said a few years ago, he’s got that. Before he ever does the job. So yeah, that’s part of it.
JimBo Stewart: Well, look, we brought you on here cause Greg, you are the most trained parliamentarian that I personally know. Uh, and, and so I thought, man, I’d love to hear your input for us. And so the first question I’d have for [00:06:00] you is what is the benefit? So most of our audience on here are re planters and revitalizes of fairly small churches, single staff, and.
Well, some of them, most of them maybe have not, never had any sort of parliamentary, parliamentary, uh, training or, or anything like that. And maybe even have personality similar to mine where it feels it doesn’t feel as organic. And so they may not like the idea of using it, but what is the benefit for a smaller church of using parliamentary procedure?
Craig Culbreth: Okay, well, first, one of the things we want to avoid is a acts 1932 X, 1932 reads this. The assembly was in confusion. Some were shouting one thing, some, another, most of the people did not even know why they were there. Okay. So that’s what you want to avoid in any [00:07:00] church event. And let me just say that, um, that the understanding Robert’s rules of order.
Um, in a couple of things is why it’s a benefit. Number one, it allows for fairness, for example, only one person can talk at a time. Okay. Now that seems like common sense, but if you don’t have that set ahead of time, people will just, and if you could imagine in the setting, you were just talking about where there were 15,000 plus even if a hundred tried to talk at the same time.
What confusion and how unfair it might be because it’s the one with the loudest voice that talks. So it’s, it’s a sense of creating fairness is the one benefit. Um, one, it’s a sense in productivity rather than have this [00:08:00] meeting about meetings that you get to the end and no decision has been made. Um, It increases your productivity because you only allow to deal with one thing at a time.
So rather than even if they’re voting on buying the church van, and one guy wants a Ford, one guy wants a Chevy and then someone starts talking about tires. Okay, well, we got to put good tires, you know, I mean, you could get bogged down in a lot of stuff. If you didn’t have some sort of sense of. Uh, you want to avoid, um, confusion is the last thing I would say the benefit is because sometimes people really don’t know what they’re voting on and if it’s not clearly restated, it’s not, you know, clarification is okay.
Folks, you’re you, we’re about to vote to stop debate, [00:09:00] which is a very big deal. That’s why you have to have two thirds of the people, right. Now we’re voting on the motion that only takes a majority, but both of those efforts in a, in a small church setting will, uh, really eliminate confusion and bring clarity, uh, to why they’re there.
Bob Bickford: I love that answer in terms of orderliness and communication and keeping everybody on track, because I think we’ve all been in the business meeting. We’ve been dealing with like buying a church day in, and then all of a sudden we’re talking about tires, which is my last time I checked every church van that you buy comes with tires.
I don’t think that’s a, like, you get an option, right. To get the, not have tires. So I appreciate that. But let me ask.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Real quick. I ha I had a, I had a budget meeting one time where somebody asks something about the church van, and then we had an [00:10:00] intern named Dan with a D and somebody was talking about, do we need to get rid of the church, man? And then somebody was like, don’t get rid of Dan. He’s like,
Bob Bickford: Hopefully Dan was there about that vote of affirmation. That’s pretty awesome. Um, Craig, one of the th struggles, I remember this is my, uh, business meeting story. It was one cold dark November night. It was actually December of my second month at the church, the vacuum cleaner quit. There was threat of ice.
Only the old people. The oldest of the old came to our monthly business. And our custodian said, we need to buy a new vacuum cleaner. The company is going to go ahead and loan me one. Can you bring that motion before the people? So we showed up, it was dark. It was about to ice. We didn’t have a Corum. Right.
And so as a small church, that’s one of the things we wrestled with is like, okay, well, how do we make decisions? And if we’re using Robert’s rules of orders to make. [00:11:00] Do we use them for every decision. Do we only use them for important decisions that, so how does a pastor of a normative sized church who may not have a quorum or may not get all of the people there who would speak positively towards a emotion or in favor of a particular decision or a save intern Dan’s job, you know, that sort of thing. Is there a guide that you could give us? Is
it always wrong with
Craig Culbreth: of all, every church needs to do a little research depending on what state. Okay. And let’s say that because for example, in the state of Florida where I live, um, the law says for non-profits a Corum, unless it’s otherwise stated specifically. Okay. And their documents is who shows up. Okay. And so, but what I would say the big picture Bob would be, if I was pastoring a small town, [00:12:00] I would say, save my voting for big, big items. And I would try to move forward with vacuum cleaners and garbage bags and all those things. And don’t make that something that has to be voted on.
Um, you can break it into a smaller group and say, okay, there’s a call or a church council call or whatever you want, but to have to have the congregation.
Uh, save the votes for the big things, the budget, the hiring staff property, you know, big ticket items like a new roof, but because it seems like the more we vote, the more we divide people. And I just, I would work towards, you know, and, and I’ve pastored in three different states, three different sized churches.
And I can tell you that it’s a challenge, no matter what side. Unless you start [00:13:00] to get people to see that you, you put people in position of leadership, trust us to decide if we need a new vacuum, cleaner, trust us. If we decide we’ve got to change the outside lighting of the church, because then people start to pool their ignorance on a particular topic.
And, you know, they, it just gets more bogged down. So I know it’s a process. I would tell guys who are listening. Listen, you got to start somewhere. You can’t just objectives really end all business meetings. I’m not suggesting that, but I will say through the pandemic, you’d be surprised how many churches did things without votes.
And if they taught us anything is we can survive. So I think pastors are in a position right now to say, listen, you know, in 2020, we didn’t hold one business meeting and we serve. So let’s, you know, don’t, let’s, don’t go back that way. [00:14:00] And because they they’ve showed that the pastor or the deacons or whoever can make legitimate, sensible, common sense decisions.
JimBo Stewart: I appreciate that. What you’re saying. And so. If I’m hearing you correctly on day-to-day CIT decisions, operational kind of basic decisions. We don’t have to do parliamentary procedure to make every, you wouldn’t recommend that for every single decision, but it does seem to be a great benefit when maybe there’s something.
Uh, something that of great consequence that could create serious, uh, division or contention, because one of the things I really like about parliamentary procedure, as I learned more about it is it helps make sure. That the largest loudest, most influential personality can’t drive everything because we’ve maybe all been in [00:15:00] meetings where that one kind of power broker of the organization, just when they speak, everybody just goes, Yeah.
Just whatever, whatever that guy said
Craig Culbreth: Right. And, and then you got people who speak more than once and some people never had a chance. So what parliamentary procedure does is it gives you that say that, Hey, you can’t talk more than three minutes and you can’t talk a second time unless there’s absolutely nobody that wants to say. And so it does that and it, and it can, uh, I know it, we talk about it bog and thing down, but there’s a sense in which it does slow things down enough for people to grasp the big items.
Okay. Folks, this is what our budget is doing, and we’re going to walk through this and we want you to see this. So go slowly through the big items. And then the smaller items, [00:16:00] you don’t need to have everybody because if you’ve got 20 Baptists in the room, you got 23 opinions. I mean, they there’s, some people that would be on both sides, they, you know, and, um, so, and what you said too, it overcomes the quiet people from losing, participating.
And parliamentary procedure actually protects members that aren’t in the room. And that’s something, if any Baptist church will tell you, not every member is in the room. So it actually is a kind of a protection because it does slow things down a little bit. Now the harder thing from the big level where we are at the Southern Baptist convention is that the majority of people in that room.
Their churches don’t have business meetings anymore. So it was, it was really foreign to them. Um, I am also what they call the people’s parliamentarian, which means I go over to the side [00:17:00] and this year I, I, in the previous three years, I hadn’t talked to six people the first day I talked to 22 to answer a question.
So, and that’s fine. That’s why we do it. Um, but I will say that when you, the bigger the crowd, the bigger, the moment, the more there is a need. Now I realize not everybody went to a microphone, got to speak again. You know, there’s a certain amount of time. And you mentioned about how we debated, we burned seven and a half minutes of our 20 minutes trying to extend it for 10 minutes and it failed.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. In those seven minutes felt like dog years. It felt like 49 minutes.
Craig Culbreth: Yeah, trust me. We have a clock running up there, several of them, and it seemed even, or for me. So I get, I get it that we have this huge clock [00:18:00] that’s counting every second. So yeah.
Bob Bickford: I think, you know, one of the, one of the great things too is like Jimbo and I and Barb and his wife, Adria and Kyle Beerman and Matt Hensley. We were all at microphone three when, uh, I think all this was going down. And so, uh, for a good part of the video broadcast, you could see a good portion of the replant team watching this all go down, which was a lot of fun.
Craig Culbreth: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: So one of the, one of the reasons that that didn’t go through was not that it didn’t have good sentiment, right. The idea behind extending time. And there was good sentiment that I think really most of the people in the room would agree with, but the reason it wasn’t successful is it wasn’t written accurately enough. right. And that seemed to be the issue. So that brings me to a question of. There’s such precision to parliamentary procedure. For a past single staff, pastor [00:19:00] of a smaller church, while they may understand the benefit of being able to lead a meeting this way at their church, especially on big ideas or with big personalities, big consequences, those things, they may hear this or experience some things and go, man, it was.
Well, if we had some good structure to this, but the precision of it all can be a little bit overwhelming. And so Craig, what would you say to the pastor that goes, man? I don’t understand anything about how this works, but I see that we need to do it.
What would you think.
Craig Culbreth: Three words. And then I’m going to explain each one. First of all, I would read second of all, I would write and thirdly, I would practice. So here’s the first one I would read. There’s two good books to read and I’m not, I’m not going to suggest the 767 page of Roberts. Okay. Uh, these are both on Amazon.
Uh, Robert’s rules for dummies is an easy read. It’s got visuals. [00:20:00] Even if you only read the first chapter you’re way down the road. The second one is, is called parliamentary guide for church leaders. Parliamentary guide for church leaders is actually written by Barry McCarty, um, our, um, lead parliamentarian, and that is written just for truth.
It’s not written for Senate and community centers that use it. It’s all church. And it’s not, it’s not a thick book, but it’s helpful. It’s a paperback, you know? Um, and so it’s, it’s pretty cheap, especially if you even get it downloaded, it’s like eight bucks or something, but it’s good to read. Secondly, I would say right.
Okay. First of all, write out on an agenda. Okay. Have some form of action. And secondly, uh, using those books [00:21:00] kind of write out what motions look like and how, and when you vote, I get a call every other week, at least sometimes more of churches that say, Hey, I’m going to do this visit meeting. How do I handle this?
And so I always say, we’ll get out a piece of paper cause I’m going to give you some pointers. Okay. And so writing things down ahead of it. Um, listen, if you think that we have everything memorized up on that platform, you’re crazy. I mean, where are our heads are on a swivel? We’re looking stuff up, um, because things come up that we’d never even dealt with.
And so, but write things down, don’t be afraid to have an agenda. Don’t be afraid to write, okay, this is what I do. This is how I have to do votes and just write yourself. And the third way, it’s like any language you learn, cause it’s a whole nother language is you gotta [00:22:00] practice. Um, listen, when I was first learning this, believe it or not, I had three boys and I took them out on the back porch and I wanted them to act like bad church members and um, and they
Bob Bickford: Right. If you didn’t practice, we can send you to some churches, man. We got, we know.
Craig Culbreth: Well, all I’m saying is I literally just like, Hey. I never got to practice baptism in seminary. I had to use my wife in a pool, you know, and I know lots of guys that have done that. And so there’s something to be said for practice. And even if it’s just you standing in front of a mirror, but practice saying those things, so they don’t seem so foreign to you.
Um, and you don’t have to use all 776 pages. And I have had to say more than once in a business meeting folks, I’ve got to look this up or I don’t know. I don’t, I’m not going to give you the, I’m not going to make up an answer. Okay. I [00:23:00] think this is the way we’re going to do this because this makes the most common sense.
And if you just come back to common sense, most of the time you’ll be right in Roberts. Um, now it’s, it’s written as if he was not an attorney. He was a military guy. So he, you know, and, but the people I’m convinced the people that have written we’re in the 12th edition now. Um, some of them have to be lawyers because they talk like lawyers and I get accused of being a lawyer and I’m not.
Um, so anyway, that’s what I was.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So here’s a, here’s a challenging question for some guys, um, by default or even by the church bylaws as a pastor. Are either the moderator or they’re constrained to not be the moderator. So what are your thoughts on the pastor serving as a moderator? Should the pastor serve as a moderator? Should he not?
Craig Culbreth: Well, for years that the belief was, [00:24:00] if you want to control the meeting, be the mind. But technically the moderator can not give any opinions. He, he has to just guide the discussion, but he can’t give his opinion. So if a pastor wants to be able to speak into things and you know, whether it’s the budget, whether it’s hiring a staff, he’s got to step aside as a moderator.
Anyway. So my personal opinion now is if he can find a calm, trusting leader, Who we can trust who is calmed and get upset. I would make that person, the moderator and I would change my documents. I, if I’m not a local church, pastor now work for the Florida Baptist convention. But if I went back to the pastor, the first thing I would do is find somebody in the church.
Then I said, listen, I want you to be the moderator. So I want you to walk. A couple of business meetings, and then we’re going to change our bylaws and you’re going to become the [00:25:00] moderator so I can speak into it. Okay.
Bob Bickford: yeah.
JimBo Stewart: That’s a good word. Last question. Before we shut it down today. Um, I appreciate early on you bring in an acts 1932, and that idea that’s what we’re trying to avoid. If, if a pastor is, is trying his best. To lead either as the moderator or the pastor and, and, and it does kind of devolve into some chaos and, uh, he can’t seem to reign it in with parliamentary procedure.
I mean, is there a way to just, I mean, do you recommend shutting it down or how would you do that? What is your recommendation to that?
Craig Culbreth: Well, the moderator. Yes. A lot of freedom when it comes to, he can, he can call for recess, you know, or it would just mean you stop it until everybody cools off. I I’ve had guys who I’ve been on their speed dial and they didn’t know what to do. And so they called for recess and they stepped [00:26:00] outside and called me.
I’ve done that more than once. Um, that’s the first thing you might tell them. Listen, I, folks is getting a little hectic in here. Let’s all stand up. We’re going to, we’re going to take a short recess when I haven’t ended the meeting, but we don’t want this to get out of hand. Okay. And if it feels like it’s getting out of hand, that’s what either the passenger or the moderator can.
Um, and that would be the first step. Okay. Now, technically to end the meeting, someone’s got a call for that, you know, let’s table, all this and, uh, in the meeting and then they have to vote. So you can’t one person can’t decide it’s over because that would be, uh, a power play that you really wouldn’t want because it works good.
If there are good guys. But all those rest of those guys, it’s given them too much power.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm,
Craig Culbreth: So,
JimBo Stewart: Craig, thank you So,
much for taking the [00:27:00] time to come on with us here for the replay at bootcamp. And I think this is going to be a really helpful episode for a lot of guys.
Craig Culbreth: well, thank you guys. Thank you for what you do. I really appreciate it. Thanks.
JimBo Stewart: All right guys, tune in next week.