Working with Committees and Groups

Learning to work with people.

CHARLES M. MELLOR, Minister, Sanitarium Church, St. Helena, California

THE successful minister must learn to work with people. Each congrega­tion is made up of many individuals, and cement­ing them into a working organization is an im­portant task. One would expect to find many leaders in most congre­gations; but leaders are rare. An authority says, "Less then 5 per cent of the people are leaders."

There are basically three types of lead­ers. There is the anarchy type, which means every person doing just as he pleases. There are some ministers who operate in this pat­tern. They have no program, and what is done at the meeting is up to the members. One has aptly said, "It is a fallacy to be­lieve that groups, if left to themselves, will always develop a democratic atmosphere. It is more likely chaos than autocratic domi­nance will result."

Then we have the autocratic type of lead­ership, which means everyone doing what the chairman wants, and assuming that only a few were made to govern. Some min­isters operate in this manner.

Finally, there is the democratic type of leadership. This is based on the assumption that if the group is given all the facts and a chance to discuss the issues it can form solid conclusions. This type provides the oppor­tunity for free discussion under leadership of its own choosing.

Primary Functions of the Pastor-Administrator

What are the primary functions of the pastor-administrator?

1. He is to set policy. This means that the efficient minister must have an educa­tional basis to understand the over-all funcioning of the church. He must have a knowledge of the organizational workings of our denomination and how they apply to the local church. Often the local elders know more about the administration of the local church than does the young worker. The minister who chairmans the church board does help set policy. Thus he should know what is going on in the church and where he is going.

2. The minister is to supervise. He is held responsible for the smooth function­ing of the church. He is the senior officer of the congregation, and it is his business to see that all departments operate prop­erly. This means he must be wide awake and should take an interest in all church functions.

3. The pastor must delegate authority and responsibility. Some ministers try to run the whole church. Such are either headed for a nervous breakdown or a fail­ure! How wise is the counsel of the apostle Peter: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but be­ing ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5: 2, 3). Select people who will augment your program. Give them authority to function. One of the gross mistakes of many a minis­ter is failing to back up his associates. This is done not only to staff members but de­partment heads. Henry Kaiser, leader of an industrial empire, said, "You seldom ac­complish very much by yourself. You must get the assistance of others. I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am." This is real leadership!

4. The pastor-administrator coordinates the total program of the church. Each de­partment will have the tendency to think only of its own immediate needs and will forget the function of the church as a whole. It is the task of the minister to co­ordinate these various departments so there is harmony throughout the church. With­out this proper coordination there can develop certain misunderstandings between departments.

  1. The pastor is to train others in lead­ership. The pastor who is farseeing will constantly be developing other people in leadership. The tendency in many churches is for the leadership to revolve around a small group or clique. This is not good for the future leadership of the church. It is imperative to be on the lookout for people who will make future leaders.

One authority in the field of group dy­namics says that the "three essentials that stand out in good leadership are: (1) Know your members; (2) Build a good working relationship; and (3) Know where you are going." A minister without a pro­gram is not worth his pay.

Why Groups Fail to Reach Good Decisions

Many church groups fail to reach desira­ble results for several reasons. Not all of these reasons of failure are found in every group, but one or two are enough to neu­tralize effective goals.

1.     A confusion or lack of understanding of the goals of the group. This is true of many committee meetings of the church. Their objectives seem to be very nebulous. One of the first duties of any group is to define the reason for its existence. A rele­vant question is, "What are we here to do?"

2.     A lack of competent leadership. If the leader is poor, even the best members can become muddled in their discussion. Therefore, before a person is appointed the leader of any group, thought should be given as to his or her qualifications.

3.     Poor organization and red tape. This is a factor that often destroys the group's effectiveness. The middle-of-the-road policy or a course between no organization and over-organization is the best.

4.     The rut attitude. Such has diminished the effectiveness of many groups—the idea of not wanting to change old methods. Church groups have the tendency of being conservative and resenting new methods and ideas. This attitude checks much prog­ress that might be made in the cause of Christ.

5.     Cliques, factions, subgroups, and non-accessibility of the group. When the organ­izational patterns of many churches are studied, it is found that a small faction runs the church and calls the score. The minister will find it rather difficult to bring in new officers who may not be in with the subgroup. This is not a healthy situation and takes a great deal of tact and skill to dissolve. It is not uncommon to have a small subgroup contact each other by tele­phone and have things very much settled before the board meets. Thus, certain mem­bers are not included in the full discus­sion. This is always unfortunate and limits good working relationships.

6.   The selfish motive—what can I get out of it? Such an attitude is usually de­structive. The total good of the church and the cause of Christ must be paramount! Sometimes you will find people who are happy to serve on the nominating commit­tee so they can be sure they will not be as­signed a major responsibility.

7.   The group is not composed of the right combination of persons. One of the lessons the pastor-administrator soon learns is that not all persons are good material for boards and committees. All it takes is one or two problem individuals to destroy the group's effectiveness. How important it is that careful forethought be given as to who should make up the boards and committees of the church.

Problem-solving Procedure

Let us now consider some simple and positive suggestions as to how a board or committee can solve problems. These rules have been time-tested by many groups and have proved to be true.

1. The problem must be carefully and clearly formulated so that every member in the group can understand it. It is a good procedure to write it out on a blackboard or distribute it in mimeographed form. Make it plain so that there will be no mis­understanding as to what is being pre­sented. If the problem is misunderstood, then no amount of deliberation will bring the group to the agreement desired.

2. The problem must be analyzed and observed from all angles. The facts must be known both pro and con. Much thought must be given to the problem. To properly know all the facts, some research should be done beforehand.

3. After the facts have been assembled, then the problem must be discussed, evalu­ated, and a decision made. It is imperative that each person in the group feel free to discuss the problem without the idea that he or she will have the disapproval of the chairman or minister. The chairman must keep all members on the subject in order to reach a decision. It is so easy to go off on tangents. Or, there may be one or two who monopolize the whole discussion. My suggestion to the committee chairman is, "If you have something to say on the sub­ject, by all means say it; if not, wait until the meeting is adjourned."

How to Conduct a Business Meeting

Most church people do not enjoy or feel the responsibility of attending the busi­ness and board meetings. Somehow they do not feel these meetings are important, and thus try to find excuses to be absent. If this is the case, then we who are responsible for the administrative functioning of the church should do some real heart searching. The fault may rest at our doorstep.

Notifying those concerned is a must! When our church council is called, we send out a mimeographed notice of the place and time of meeting. Also included is an agenda of the items to be discussed and a financial statement for the month. Some ministers also include the minutes of the previous meeting. For small commit­tees, it is effective to have some onionskin letterhead paper. Using carbon paper, the same letter can be copied and be sent to all committee members with one typing.

It is imperative that an agenda be care­fully prepared beforehand. It is helpful if the members can receive a copy of the agenda in advance. The pastor or chair­man should give each item on the agenda some careful thought so as to make sure that the group has all the facts.

Of concern to many pastor-administra­tors is the problem of introducing com­pletely new topics without their being cleared with the presiding officer prior to the meeting. It must be remembered that free and open discussion does not mean a hodgepodge of disconnected topics. This practice should be discouraged. The intro­duction of such items can hamper discus­sion because there can be no preparation of facts and data by the members of the group.

In administering the church, the minis­ter must never allow the strain of the proj­ect to overshadow what is happening to persons. Our approach must be God-cen­tered and person-oriented. People and their needs are the "raw material of church ad­ministration." The minister must always be alert to what is happening (or not happening) to the members who attend the vari­ous meetings of the church.

During the past world war the War Man­power Commission suggested four founda­tions of a good relationship: (1) Let each worker know how he is getting along. (2) Give credit where credit is due. (3) Tell people in advance about changes that will affect them. (4) Make the best use of each person's abilities. What excellent advice for the pastor-administrator!

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CHARLES M. MELLOR, Minister, Sanitarium Church, St. Helena, California

August 1967

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