A View from the Pew: 6 Types of Church Committees

Pew_smThe old saying goes something like, “In all the towns and all the cities, there’s not one monument to a committee.” It may or may not be true, but it rhymes.

Serving on a committee, particularly in the context of church, can be a rewarding and meaningful enterprise. It can also sour your relationship with your sisters and brothers and send you church shopping.

Lay people commonly serve in churches through committees. If you’re active in your congregation, chances are you’re on a committee. Over the years, I’ve found myself or planted myself on a number of such bodies with mixed results.

After reflecting on the purpose and effectiveness of committees, I humbly submit that there are six basic types of committees:

1. Hyperactive – This is a group of people who meet often, discuss rigorously, schedule aggressively, and report frequently. It is highly visible, whether it needs to be or not, and can be driven by one or two strong personalities. This type of group can sometimes be guilty of planning lots of stuff for other people to do. It can be, but is not always, effective.

2. Dead – The opposite of the hyperactive group, this type of committee never meets, seldom reports activities, and either serves no purpose or has a task that is fulfilled by other means, such as staff responsibilities or a volunteer who just takes care of what the committee is supposed to be doing.

3. Vestigial – These legacy committees may not be dead. They may even be hyperactive. They are just not useful any more. You don’t have to look long or hard to find a church with a “Boiler Committee,” even though they no longer heat their church with a boiler. As with vestigial organs, they’re really not harmful, but sometimes cancer can grow in them undetected.

4. Functioning – A group with a clear mission, dedicated membership, shared leadership, and effective communication can form the backbone of a healthy church. Members are proactive and complement the work of the paid staff, achieving their objective and understand their role in the context of the church. Their purpose can be anything from finance to flower. All committees should aspire to be this type.

5. Social – It doesn’t matter what the committee’s charter is. If it really only exists because its members are friends and like to get together, that’s the real purpose. These committees tend to meet over meals or coffee and see their stated purpose as a great excuse to get together. I’m not condemning here, just naming, and it may be that a committee that’s really just a social event is one of the healthier activities in a church.

6. Vanity – You’re not leading if no one is following, and some leaders need a group to run whether it serves a purpose or not. These committees are easy to recognize because they tend to give a lot of visibility to one person regardless of the group’s overall importance to the church’s mission. These committees also tend to have the same leader for years with little change in approach or makeup. A leader holding on to the gavel too long can threaten the health and effectiveness of any committee.

If you recognize a few too many dead, vestigial, or vanity committees on your church’s charter, perhaps it’s time to audit how your church organizes its lay leaders. Nothing burns out your leadership faster than wasting their time.

A lot has been written in recent years about organizing the work of the church around “teams” instead of “committees.” No matter what you call it, serving the church is more than an honor. It’s work. Just make sure it’s meaningful work in the life of the church.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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Comments

  1. This is definitely an interesting list. If there are some of these types of committees within the church, then there may need to be some changes made to make them more effective. Committees should definitely be functioning. Great information, thanks for sharing!