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A Dozen Good Ideas and One Caveat: Explore how you can improve the function of your Committee on Ministry.  Find out how best to structure your COM, what their job should be, and how to help your congregation become more vibrant through this work.

Presenter: Rev. Barbara Child. Barbara retired from interim ministry in 2012 and also serves as a Ministerial Settlement Representative.

Host: Rev. Lisa Presley, Congregational Life Consultant, MidAmerica Region

IDEA 1: C.O.M. is an AGENT OF THE ENTIRE CONGREGATION
Allows professional clergy, lay leaders and congregation at large to work toward fulfillment of mission and covenant. Bylaws should support COM made up of well respected persons. Regular rotation and term limits. Should not have adversarial approach!

IDEA 2: IDEAL MEMBERS
Members of COM are: Active members familiar with congregation’s history and culture Generally respected by lay and clergy . Do not bring personal agenda Able to focus on big picture of mission, covenant and ministry . Skilled at communication . Commitment to well-being of whole

IDEA 3: COM IN THE CONGREGATIONAL SYSTEM
Should be no overlap between Board and COM. Engages more congregants in significant leadership roles. Leadership training ground. Recipient of trained leaders

IDEA 4: COMMUNICATION
Good COM communicates constantly. Through every means. Regarding the state of the mission and covenant. Keeps people from going to sleep, becoming complacent, or forgetting the church’s mission

IDEA 5: EDUCATE ABOUT COM
History of Ministerial Relations Committees (MRCs) and COMs. Shift from support group to congregational check-up. “Our COM,” not “Minister’s COM”. Which is yours?

IDEA 6: EVALUATION
Evaluation of ministry: Everything done by professional clergy, other paid staff, and congregants involved in the ministry . Not just about the professional clergy. Agent to monitor everyone’s accountability over time

IDEA 7: TRUE FOCUS
COM helps congregation focus on true reason for evaluation: How are we doing on our mission achievement? Are we living within our covenants with each other? Help congregation know the mission and covenant

IDEA 8: POLICY AND MONITORING
Clear distinction between work of Board (policy-makers) and COM (congregation monitors). Board’s authority to make decisions. COM’s authority is power of persuasion. COM invites people to mission- and covenant-focused perspective

IDEA 9: CONSULTANTS
COM consults regularly with professional clergy and other staff, Board, task forces, teams, committees involved in ministry. Will share impressions on how ministry going. May make recommendations. Others decide what to do

IDEA 10: CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
Engages in on-going conflict management. Sponsoring workshops on understanding systems and healthy practices. Not arbiter or judge but encourages responsible resolution. Never takes sides

IDEA 11: MODELS SHARED MINISTRY
Model and teach value of shared ministry. Educate about ministry in general, and congregation’s ministry in particular. Help people understand short- and long-term goals for congregation

IDEA 12: TRUST AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Model and teach mutual trust and accountability. Working with Board and professional clergy. Fostering right relationship in accord with congregation’s covenant

AND ONE CAVEAT
Safeguard against COM being old-type Ministerial Relations Committee. Should not be “palace guard” or complaint bureau. Larger congregation may not need a COM to be healthy. May not be for everyone but . . . Well conceived and managed can serve healthy shared ministry of professional clergy and congregants

MAJOR RESOURCES

  • Robert T. Latham, Moving On from Church Folly Lane: The Pastoral to Program Shift (Tuscon: Wheatmark, 2006) Addendum VI: The Committee on Ministry (an Original and Workable Model), p 244-72. Can be ordered through www.mythinglink.com or the UUA Bookstore www.uuabookstore.org.
  • Dan Hotchkiss, Governance and Ministry (Alban Institute). Can be ordered through the UUA Bookstore

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