The Rev. Dalton Troy Rushing has written a clear and brief explanation of why any size church would be more effective with a simpler and more focused leadership structure. For our client churches that are looking for ways to make this happen, his blog post is a good place to start.
As clergy know, there’s this interesting wrinkle in our polity as United Methodists that there are administrative committees, mandated by the Book of Discipline, with overlapping function. We try to make up for this fact with by including certain people on multiple committees, but frequently, rather than facilitating conversation, this structural principle means a certain number of people spend more nights than they should in the church parlor, sitting around a table, instead of caring for their families or making Disciples.
Let me share an example from the church I serve. During my first six months at North Decatur United Methodist Church, the church needed to undertake a major renovation project on our elevator. Basically, all the guts had to be replaced. Three groups in the church had oversight:
- The trustees, because this was a facility issue.
- The finance committee, because there was significant cost associated with the project.
- The church council, as the governing body of the church.
The money we planned to use to renovate the elevator was sitting in a bank account, ready to be spent, and yet because of the logistical nightmare of working through three groups with overlapping authority, we spend six months talking about a project that everyone agreed we needed to do and for which we had already set aside the money! This isn’t to say that our lay leaders were doing anything wrong; it’s to say that (as Andy Stanley says) our system was set up to produce exactly the results we were getting, which in this case were absolutely nothing.
It also isn’t to say that the United Methodist committee system is irrevocably broken. I supposed it works for some churches. But I’ve never heard anybody praise our committee structure. I’ve also never seen a disciple made in a committee meeting. [Read More]