July 18, 2016

Fruit by Committee?

We come to our churches with many gifts. One spirit supplies our gifts. Diverse as we are, we are one in this spirit. This is lovely, Biblical reality. So why do the fruits of our gifts sometimes seem a little sparse?

In many congregations, the fruits are organized by committees. That’s great - many hands make light work, etc. However sometimes the organization itself may block ministries from their full harvest potential.

In his book, Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership (2009, The Alban Institute), Dan Hotchkiss reminds us that committees may not be the right structure for vital ministries. Lumping all aspects of a certain ministry into one committee’s lap may overwhelm and make the committee members wary of new ideas or initiatives. Hotchkiss encourages us to separate governance from ministry: 

"…there is no reason why someone with a heart for child care needs to attend meetings to interpret the insurance company requirements about child safety – or vice versa." (pg. 76)

Governance and administration certainly are ministries, but the same people who are gifted for those roles may not ever be interested in changing a diaper or peeling a potato. Hotchkiss suggests utilizing “teams” for carrying out the joyful rolling-up-our-sleeves work of reading to children or making the soup, and let the committees focus on the budget and the policies. In a large church, the routine management might be delegated to staff. 

Think about your congregation’s stewardship function. There are many wonderful ideas for year ‘round activities to help people grow in their faith and their response to God’s abundance in their lives. One “stewardship committee” could get swamped with conducting activities several times a year to highlight volunteerism and planned giving and educational programs on what Christ had to say about wealth. 

However, small teams dedicated to these “sub functions” can use creative juices to fuel fresh initiatives, guided by the overriding goals and direction of the committee - which, by the way, hopefully were inspired by strategic direction provided from the Vestry.

One spirit. People working in alignment with their passion and gifts. Much fruit!

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