September 5, 2017 Ron Baum

Why Mid-Size Churches Get Stuck: Committee Overload

You have probably heard it said, “A camel is just a horse designed by a committee.”  That is pretty funny once you get up close to a camel and are aware of all its oddities. Some of the churches we work with at The Unstuck Group also have their own oddities, what we refer to as “stuckness,” due in part to their large amount of boards and/or committees.

Some Examples:

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a church of about 500 in attendance that had 85 different committees. They had one committee whose sole purpose was to appoint committees. They had sub-committees that had no idea what their purpose was. Even so, a handful of people were still appointed and met monthly.  Often times, with no other agenda, the discussion would wander randomly to the day-to-day operations of the staff and their ministries. The staff experienced directives to cease certain ministries, start new ministries or wait on decisions without having any input or say in the matter. This would stifle any creativity and strategic purposes, thereby discouraging the team’s effort.

Another church had such a large board of lay people that was empowered to control day-to-day decision rights that it could be compared to a boat constantly dragging an anchor behind. Every time a decision needed to be made, they had to wait for the board to meet, discuss, research, get back together again and (hopefully) reach consensus. What seemed to be an easy decision (or at least one that could be made by a staff member), just dragged on and on.  Other decisions of strategic value would remain tied to the dock because either the board couldn’t all get together, or weren’t able to reach consensus (which really shouldn’t be the goal anyways). However, decision rights could have been assigned much earlier, moving the strategy to execution much sooner. When the Senior Pastor expressed his frustration with the process, he was told, “Pastors come and go; boards stay forever.” ”You could see how that statement may be discouraging and defuse the passion of any leader.

“When a Senior Pastor and their team are unable to move an initiative, a project or ministry forward, it seems to deplete the energy and effectiveness of that team.”

When a Senior Pastor and their team are unable to move an initiative, a project or ministry forward, it seems to deplete the energy and effectiveness of that team. For a church to get unstuck in this area, the leadership may want to consider a more streamlined structure, including defined roles and assigned decision rights so that everyone wins. Clarity for these questions is crucial: Who reports to whom? Who has decision rights for what? And who is empowered to lead what? Each of these will move a team to efficiency and effectiveness.

When a Senior Pastor is empowered by their board to lead their church toward the mission and vision with the support, encouragement and cheerleading of the board, they win. When a Senior Pastor is held accountable by their board for their goals and objectives, everyone wins. And when a Senior Pastor can empower their team to lead their respective ministries without an anchor or tied hands, everyone wins.

Don’t allow the structure to strangle the team. Rather, streamline the process, empower the leadership, assign decision rights and allow what would otherwise become camels to become a thoroughbred.

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Ron Baum

Ron has served three southern California churches over the past 28 years in various roles from Youth Ministry to Adult Ministry. Currently, Ron serves as the Executive Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in the Temecula Valley. Ron is part of the teaching team, and is a guest speaker at leadership conferences and marriage retreats.
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