I continue to be amazed, if not frustrated, at the amount of time church members spend in committee meetings. I often find churches are spending ten times more hours in committee meetings than Great Commission activities.
Committee meetings are not inherently bad, but they have become sad substitutes for ministry in many churches. Just today, I met virtually with six staff members of a church. They were lamenting the time consumption and frequent divisiveness of their committee system. They asked me about guidelines for church committees. As I have with other church leaders, I shared these five principles.
- Committees must have a clear purpose. One pastor shared a list of 14 committees in his church. The church’s average attendance is 140, so there is a committee for every 10 people in attendance. I asked why his church had a flower committee. Couldn’t they just decide about flowers without monthly meetings? His non-response was a clear response.
- Committees should not meet just because they are on the schedule. If there are no items to address, don’t meet. The church calendar should not be the tail that wags the dog. Most of our churches are already encumbered with too much non-ministry busy work.
- Some committees should be eliminated. One church I encountered had a hymnal committee. Being the naïve person that I am, I asked what the purpose of a hymnal committee was. Of the seven leaders in the room, no one knew. So I asked what a hymnal committee does when it meets. A staff member shared with us that they spend an hour complaining about the music in the worship services. Now that’s productive.
- Some committees should be task forces. A committee should have an ongoing purpose and need. Personnel committees and finance committees are good examples of committees that have ongoing purposes. Many committees should become task forces to lead and complete a given task; they should then disband.
- Committees must not be a substitute for ministry. This fifth point brings us back to the original thesis. Churches burdened with too many committees are taking members out of ministry. These activities are often unnecessary. Indeed, many committees are often counter-productive. They become substitutes for ministry.
If your church is having difficulty getting ministry volunteers, it could be that the church members are burning out in committees. And have you ever noticed that some of your most divisive members are often outspoken members of committees? They prefer control over serving.
Many churches need to remove the excess fat of the meaningless activity of too many committees. Subtraction can become ministry addition.
It’s time to get our members out of the committee and into the community.
Posted on November 30, 2020
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Our church has an average Sunday morning attendance of 86 and we have 23 committees. About 1/3 of our committees are completely inactive, which is a problem because we are a committee-run church. Staff members can’t have the oil changed in the church van without orders from a committee.
Saying we have too many committees (and convincing a congregation that is the case) is the easy part… it is getting members to serve in the community that is the challenge.
My family members every time say that I am wasting my time here at net, except I know I am getting know-how every day by reading such good posts.
Committees should be required to justify their existence. Someone, either the Pastor or someone else with authority should be examining meeting agendas and minutes to determine the necessity of a committee or meeting. Otherwise, people meet just for the sake of meeting, or to use it as an opportunity to complain or worse yet to potentially sow discord.
In the corporate world you would never dream of scheduling a meeting that did not have a clearly defined purpose and agenda. Why should the church?
Some church members receive a sense of ownership from serving on a committee. If the committee where they are serving is being shut down. Then we should help them find another place to serve. So they don’t disconnect from the church.
It’s true, many churches are saturated with commitee activities and programs that are not productive nor are they contributing to the spiritual growth of members.
We all received gifts or abilities that we should use to benefit others so that God can be glorified through us. The church has a major role to play in helping members discover and use those gifts that God has placed in us so that we can each work for the advancement of the God’s kingdom.
The “The Five Principles to Get Church Members Out of Committee into the Community” will definitely help church improve their functioning and achieve more success for the Kingdom.
Thank you Thom S. Rainer for sharing
Just because committees are functioning properly doesnt mean people will move out into the community. They have to lose the fear or the apathy. If you have a way to do that you’ll be a millionaire.
Big Amen for that Pastor! There are committees which are not necessary.
I totally agree. Too many committees in our church. Smacks of people wanting to control everything. Our Christian Education Committee meets every month no matter what. Why on earth meet monthly? They could cover everything in one or two meetings a year. However, changing this structure would require changing our By Laws, so for some churches that could appear to be a major obstacle.
You are right, Bob. Sometimes the bylaws are hindrances to ministry as well.
I’m so glad you wrote this article! I’m tired and frustrated to of church leaders wanting to do the same thing to get the same results…preaching to the choir (as they say)! too much work to be done in all of our communities, whether urban or suburban, rich or poor. We are still far from following the Only mandate for the Church…”go and make disciples.”
I’m done with committee for sake of a committee!
You got it!
If a committee is tasked with procuring a roofer and getting the contracts executed and a new roof installed and that is completed, then the committee has done its task. Too many committees though were formed decades ago to make some people think they had power while keeping them from having any. These committees gave people tasks to do and kept them occupied in a less-busy era.
Well said, Mark.
Thom, thank you for writing this article. Committees are the BANE of many churches. Some committees do serve a useful purpose if they have clear, well-defined reason for existing and a committee leader and members committed to carrying out this purpose, do not get bogged down in deciding how they are going to fulfill this purpose, set clear, attainable goals, stay focused on these goals, and periodically review their progress toward attaining them. Essentially they function more like a task force than a committee. But too often committees are a waste of people’s time. They are like a dog chasing its tail. The dog goes round and round and gets nowhere. I have served on a number of committees over the years. One was an adult Christian education committee. It had a clear idea of what it was supposed to do and did it. Another was an evangelistic outreach committee. All it did was talk and talk and talk and accomplished nothing. It was eventually disbanded.