Not insisting that all committee members work. In the typical church committee, 5 or more members show up to express opinions and the chair does all the work. This is neither fair nor smart. I see no reason for committee dilettantes. I’ve never been on a committee that lacked for ideas and opinions. I’ve been on plenty of committees where the decision makers didn’t show to do the job they’d planned. If you vote to have an Easter egg hunt, then you’ve voted to help. It’s not fair to burden others with your ideas.
Meeting when you really don’t have to. Some chairs just like meetings. Maybe it helps them feel important or powerful. Maybe they need a social life. Maybe they think the elders want a meeting every quarter, no matter what.
But people are busy. Some are busy doing church work that really matters. Therefore, don’t meet if you can avoid it. If emails or a phone call will do, then skip the meeting. Be careful. There are some things that really require a face to face meeting. We sometimes overuse our email.
But if you routinely conduct meetings that aren’t truly necessary, people will stop coming. Treat your members’ time as a rare and precious commodity, and they’ll build monuments to your name (or they would, but who really has the time?)
Overly long meetings. Now, this is hard. People need time to learn the facts, to ponder the problem, and to debate the issues. But people are busy. Therefore, do as much preparation as possible outside the meeting. Send out an information package several days before the meeting, together with an agenda. Give folks time to learn the background info early.
This way, when the meeting takes place, the time can be spent discussing and debating. You can’t debate except together. But you can prepare somewhere else.
This won’t work if you begin the meeting by reviewing the information in depth for those who didn’t bother to do their homework. This punishes those who bothered to do their homework and rewards the lazy committee members. Pretty soon, they’ll stop preparing because they’re just going to have to hear it twice.
Starting late. Let me rephrase that: START ON TIME!!!! Starting late punishes those who came on time. Starting on time punishes those who came late. Which one is more fair?
If you routinely start 15 minutes late, people will arrive 20 minutes late. Start on time even if there are only two of you. Put something pretty important early on the agenda. Be sure that latecomers see an engaged, involved meeting well underway when they wander in. DON’T START OVER.
Following Robert’s Rules of Order. The Rules serve a purpose. I don’t know what it is, other than to sell books, but I’m sure they help in some situations.
Actually, the Rules are for meetings of people who don’t much like each other. They work great for a City Council where the members don’t get along. They impose an order that leads to decisions. But they are a burden on Spirit-led people who love each other and love God’s mission on earth.
If you can’t get your people to work together as a team without resort to the Rules, disband the committee, spend some time in prayer, and reform the committee with more compatible folks.
Failing to lead. In Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair is not supposed to vote except to break a tie and should be a facilitator. The chair should avoid being on one side or the other. Well, that just doesn’t work in church.The elders or whoever made you chair did so because they have confidence in your leadership. They don’t want you to just referee the discussion. They want you to lead.
Good leadership ultimately is about wisely using the gifts God gave you. In most church committees, the chair is the most involved in the ministry, is most prepared, and has talked to the most people. Therefore, the chair’s opinion is usually the most valuable. Withhold your opinion from the team, and you’ve deprived the team of one it’s greatest talents.
On the other hand, it’s easy to wield the gavel to dominate the discussion, and this has to be avoided. This means the wise chair makes sure the team is fully engaged in the conversation before offering an opinion. Better yet, the chair creates a climate where members feel free to disagree and to argue their case, whether or not the chair agrees.
Not advocating your team’s decisions. Often times, a committee’s decision has to be approved by some higher authority–the elders, the staff, another committee. It’s critical that the chair fight vigorously for the committee’s recommendation. After all, if you don’t, the other members of the team will never work under you again.
You wasted their time. They met for hours and struggled to reach the best conclusion they could, and the elders overrode their decision based on incomplete information! They’re mad. They would’ve been mad at the elders if you’d fought for them, but you didn’t, and so they’re mad at you. And well they should be.
The committee chair has to make certain that the approving body has the same information the committee had and understands the reasoning that went into the decision. The chair should insist on being present when the report is considered, if there’s any chance of its being turned down. If need be, the chair should work the phones and be sure the approving body has all the information they need to make a sound decision.
It’s permissible, and sometimes wise, for the committee to appoint some other member to make the case to the approving body. But the mantle falls on the chair if he doesn’t see that someone else takes the task on.
To some church goers, this approach seems manipulative. After all, the elders are Godly men who will surely act in the best interests of the church. But, speaking as an elder, I want the chair to advocate his committee’s views. I want someone to tell me why this decision was made. I want someone at the table who understands it and can explain it.
In the absence of effective advocacy, the elders can easily misunderstand and fail to see the wisdom of the committee’s decision. We are only human.
Obviously, we don’t want to be badgered and politicked. We just want someone to explain all that went into this decision and answer our questions.
And … this is church, after all. If the chair doesn’t make sure the elders are aware of the recommendation and doesn’t see that they get it on our agenda to consider, who will? Countless committee decisions have never been acted on by an eldership simply because no one thought to ask the elders to take it up.