A ministry friend recently posted a request on Facebook for the job descriptions for church committees. That is a very legitimate request. If a church is going to have committees, those committees need to have a clear understanding of their ministry focus.
Yet, why have committees in the first place? But, I digress.
The understanding of the ministry focus of committees needs to include three things; the third of which is the most important. First, they need a clear, simple concise statement of their ministry and the arenas where they have authority to act so they can appropriately focus. Second, they need a clear, simple concise statement of what is not their ministry and where they do not have authority to act so they can appropriately collaborate with others.
Third, and did I say this was the most important? They need a clear understanding of principles that should guide their work as a ministry of the congregation. Here are five principles for your consideration.
- First Principle: Build a spiritual foundation for your work. Pray for God’s guidance, pray for the fulfillment of the mission and vision of the congregation, and pray for the pastor, staff, and lay leadership of the congregation and how you can best support them. I do not mean a perfunctory prayer at the beginning and/or the end of a committee meeting, but a profound commitment to prayer and an attitude of that sees the work of the committee as a true ministry and not a job.
- Second Principle: See everything the committee does as part of God’s empowerment the vision and spiritual strategic direction of the congregation. The success of the work of the committee is not nearly as important as the significance and impact of the ministry of the congregation. No committee can be an island or a silo. It must support the church’s vision.
- Third Principle: Fulfill your committee ministry with faithfulness, effectiveness, and innovation. Committees are not meetings to attend and to get over in an hour. Nor are they meetings to attend that go way into the night. They are experiences to have on a regular or periodic basis where  the faithfulness of the church to the Triune God is highlighted,  the effectiveness of the output of the committee’s ministry is focused on the positive impact it will have on people and their relationship to the Triune God, and  innovative methods that are inviting and involving of people will be the focus of the ministry action.
- Fourth Principle: Fulfill your committee assignment in a manner that increases ownership of the congregational journey among the people affiliated with the congregation. Committees must see their ministry as a ministry with or among the church, and not for or to the church. Therefore, communication as to what is going on, inclusion of ideas and perspectives from the church, and sensitivity to seeing how decisions and actions of the committee will impact the church fellowship must be part of the committee process.
- Fifth Principle: If you ever feel the need to manage or control rather than lead or empower, resign! Committees can lose their way and believe they know best for the church, and must control decisions to do what is the right thing for the church. They can become myopic and only talk to people in the church who have the same perspective they have. They can believe they know the truth, and act on it regardless of the desire of the rest of the church.
Many church committees are far away from these five principles, some give them lip-service, and a few actually are an embodiment of these principles. When churches are far away from these principles, committees move into a control posture that can create a committee run church that is ugly.
But are these principles enough in the typical church? In many churches they would be a great improvement. They would not be enough. Ugly could still be the primary characteristic in some parts of the church committee work.
Shift Away from Committees toward Leadership Communities
Churches need to make a major shift along a continuum that has committees at one end, leadership communities at the other end, and teams somewhere in the middle as a signpost the church is seeking to move from committees to leadership communities.
You can put lipstick on a committee, but they are still a committee! They still make decisions that are either imposed on the church or call for others in the church to implement their decisions.
Teams, on the other hand, rally around assigned tasks, or better yet ministry goals. They not only make decisions, but they take the responsibility for involving others in decision-making and the actions in fulfillment of the ministry goals. Even the way the team operates internally can create an atmosphere of empowerment.
Leadership communities take additional steps. They are more like a relational small group who adopt a ministry goal. They function out of a passion for mission and vision fulfillment. They can be a thing of great beauty.
The bottom line is that churches need to abandon committees, skip teams, and embrace leadership communities. I have reposted on my blog an article I wrote on this several years ago.