At some point in my ministry, I became allergic to committee meetings. I realized I was spending a lot of time in those meetings that could be used for productive ministry.
To be sure, not all committees are bad, and not all committee meetings are unnecessary. Unfortunately, I have seen too many committees become the “tail wagging the dog” in churches. Here are five of the most prominent problems:
- The committee has forgotten its purpose. I served as a pastor in a church where the church council monthly meeting was interminably long. I would discover that the stated and founding purpose of this group was to coordinate strategically the ministries of the church. Over time, it became nothing more than a calendar committee with people fighting for time and rooms.
- Some committees meet even if they don’t have a reason to meet. As a consultant in a church, I was asked to meet with different committees. I met with one committee where I learned they had seven consecutive months of meetings without an agenda and with nothing accomplished. I asked the chairman why they had the meetings. His response? “Because the meeting was on the church calendar.”
- Some committees attract control freaks. These control freaks tend to gravitate toward committees that deal with either money or personnel or both. And if the wrong people control the funds and personnel matters, problems can multiply.
- It’s hard to kill a committee. Committees can live beyond their usefulness and intended purpose. Often times, it’s easier to kill an elephant with a BB gun than to kill a committee. There can be emotional attachment to it. There can be the pervasive sentiment of: “We’ve always done it that way.” I recently was in a church that had 17 committees. Only three of them were really necessary.
- Unnecessary committees and committee meetings replace ministry. Every minute spent in a committee meeting is a minute that could be spent doing ministry. Our churches have become notorious for keeping our members too busy to do ministry.
Church leaders should evaluate ruthlessly all of their committees and ask several questions. Is this committee necessary? Would this committee serve better as a temporary task force? Are all the committee meetings necessary? What would we do about our committees if we started with a blank slate?
I know many of you have some great perspectives on committees and their usefulness. Let me hear from you.