“Everyone has to have a job,” a church growth guru told our group.
Throughout the three-hour seminar, he repeated his advice in many different ways: Everyone in the church should have a position of some sort, even if it is only serving on a committee.
In his opinion, this would make everyone feel valued and help them take ownership in the church.
It sounded like a great idea. But it wasn’t.
In short order, our church of 70 members had 23 committees, and everyone was assigned to at least one. Some people were assigned to three or four. That small church was busy with lots of meetings and lots of activity but very little ministry actually got done. That was 1997.
Fast-forward to 2019, where a person who comes twice a month to church is considered a “regular attendee” and a growing number of attendees come from non-churched backgrounds. This whole committee idea falls apart. Giving everyone a title won’t work out very well.
In today’s world, local churches and ministry organizations like ours at the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) must shed some committees. Despite their well-intentioned purpose, mostly unneeded committees just slow down the decision-making process and consume time and energy from actual ministry. I’m not suggesting that we should get rid of all committees, as we do need infrastructure to function. But a system that involves multiple committees with overlapping duties is a relic of the past.
This is why the BCNE has eliminated several committees, sometimes eliminating their roles altogether, other times assigning their tasks to other groups that have proven to be more effective. It is why various local Baptist associations in New England are merging with the BCNE organizationally, so focus and energy can be on mission and not on maintenance of an organizational structure from a bygone era.
What is the result? Healthy and sustainable growth numerically, spiritually and financially. To God be the glory!
Streamlining your infrastructure
Churches and mission organizations that streamline their structure and their decision-making processes spend more time accomplishing their purpose and goals.
Younger leaders, who have no interest in maintaining outdated organizational charts, begin to volunteer, lead and give. This is what is happening in the Baptist Convention of New England, where two of our last three board chairmen were under 40 and our “older” chairman was only 42. They have brought fresh ideas and new energy to the BCNE, which is producing healthy growth in our ministries.
If you find your church or ministry organization has a lot of great people but just can’t quite seem to get things accomplished, perhaps it is time to streamline the structure and eliminate some layers. All those layers probably are draining the energy out of your volunteers.
If you don’t do something soon, they might not be volunteering much longer. Or giving. Or even showing up at the table to let you know they are leaving.
It’s not 1997 anymore. Let’s be willing to change our leadership structures to better reflect what works in today’s world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry W. Dorsett is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.)