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.