Church leadership-II

Church leadership-II: organizing for action

Every pastor longs to lead an active, growing congregation. But how do you organize for action? How do you plan for growth? Two basic suggestions: set objectives; use committees to reach those objectives.

Floyd Bresee, Ph.D., is a former secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association, and continues to pastor and preach in Oregon, where he and his wife, Ellen, live in retirement.

Every pastor longs to lead an active, growing congregation. But how do you organize for action? How do you plan for growth? Two basic suggestions: set objectives; use commit tees to reach those objectives.

Set objectives

Don't be frightened by the formality of setting objectives. The process need not be complicated. Objectives simply clarify what the church wants to do and how it plans to go about doing it. At least once a year, and preferably once a quarter, the church should look at its objectives the goals it has set for itself.

The most important time to review old objectives and form new ones is just before new officers are chosen. Leaders elected and committees formed should not depend just on what was done the previous year, but on what you plan to accomplish in the coming year. Planning for the future can make all the difference between a dying and a growing church.

The three essential elements of an objective can be expressed in an acronym, SAM: specific, attainable, measurable.

1. Is the objective specific? Suppose one of your objectives is to help your youth grow spiritually. But that's not specific enough. Instead, plan to hold a Friday evening vespers for youth each week.

2. Is the objective attainable? You might decide that every member should win a soul during the year. Unfortunately, it's not likely that everyone will, and so such a high goal sets the church up for failure. Set goals that are high but reach able.

3. Is the objective measurable? It's easy to measure the number of baptisms in a year, which is one reason we place so much emphasis on baptismal statistics. But helping those new members grow spiritually is harder to measure, and perhaps that's one reason we don't emphasize this as we should. Yet spiritual growth is measurable to some degree at least by monitoring Sabbath school or church attendance, faithfulness in stewardship and witness, and so on. Set objectives that are measurable; otherwise, there's no accurate way of knowing when or whether you are achieving them.

4. Is the objective a result of consensus? Objectives must grow out of some kind of dialogue within the congregation. Pastors or even board members should not set objectives without consulting the congregation at large. Only when people have had a say in setting goals do they become "owned" goals. The General Conference Ministerial Association has instruments available for helping churches set objectives.

Use committees wisely

Committees are Christian. The church believes strongly in the commit tee system. This is so, not just because of our tradition, but because of our theology. The Bible says a church is like a human body. Each part is important. The body operates on the basis of group participation. All of us together are bound to be wiser than any one of us alone.

Committees are costly they take up too much time. Here are some time-saving suggestions:

Don't chair too many committees. Committees may oversee the work of the church, but that doesn't mean that you as pastor must oversee every committee. You, or an elder whom you designate, should presumably be an ex officio member of every committee. Sometimes you need to attend to show your interest in and support of the group. Sometimes committee chairpersons appreciate pastoral support. On the other hand, they can be a bit intimidated and threatened by the pastor's perpetual presence.

Eliminate the trivial. Make decisions at the lowest level possible. For example, don't take to a business meeting items that can be settled by the church board. Don't take to the board items that can be settled by the Sabbath school council. And don't take to the Sabbath school council items that can be settled by the Sabbath school superintendent. This not only saves time, but improves committee attendance when committee members know that only significant items will be considered.

Double up. Hold committee meetings before or after other services, such as prayer meeting, especially if you have satellite churches. Several committees can meet at once, and you can spend some time with each.

Evaluate annually. Review the work of each committee every year. Is the committee necessary? Are the right personnel on it? A good rule of thumb is that one third of a committee's membership should be new each year. Is the commit tee size-efficient? Research indicates that ideally, committees should range from 6 to 12 members.

Does each committee have terms of reference—its areas of concern, its authority to act or recommend for approval by another body?

Objectives carefully prepared and regularly reviewed, along with a wise use of committees, will go a long way toward organizing your church for action.


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Floyd Bresee, Ph.D., is a former secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association, and continues to pastor and preach in Oregon, where he and his wife, Ellen, live in retirement.

June 1992

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