Thursday, 20 January 2011

Volunteers/Committees

There used to be a desk plaque which one might see in the office of a priest or pastor.  It read  “God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee”. AMEN to that!

Ah those committees - the bane of the life of many a leader.

“Let’s form a committee”  -  words which strike terror into the heart of a good pastor.


You may be gathering that I am no great fan of committees.  So much so that when I retired I said,  “no more committees for me!”.

I suppose that Committees  have their place.  It is hard to imagine that the U.S. Congress or the U.K. Parliament would “work” without the many and sundry committees which do the leg work before the matter (whatever it may be) is brought before the body as a whole.  But doubtless there are too many of these legislative committees, and to be sure they provide useful “cover” for lazy or stupid Representatives, Senators and Member of Parliament.

I am less certain that they are useful in enhancing the life of a local congregation. I say this for a number of reasons:

1. Church Committees are often formed because the Pastor and/or  Lay leaders lack the courage of their convictions, and therefore scurry to hide behind the formula which says: “our diverse and experienced committee recommends that….”.

2. Church Committees are frequently stacked with either (a) volunteers or (b) folks with an axe to grind. 

(a) I have a very dim view of the concept of volunteerism in the Body of Christ.  As Christians we believe that we are called by the Holy Spirit to be ministers in the Body of Christ for the sake of the world.  Jesus did not say “volunteer for this”, he said “follow me” .

(b) Folks with an axe to grind will always have an axe to grind, no matter how many times they serve on committees.   Like Sarah Palin they are obsessed with self. Like Sarah Palin they are experts at self promotion.

3. Committees are almost never the sources of vision. The greatest leaders this world has ever known were women and men of vision.  They forged ahead despite all odds.  Committees could never have produced a “Moses”; an Einstein; a Michelangelo; a Sojourner Truth; an Aung San Suu Kyi; or an Anne Hutchinson.  (To be fair, neither could a Committee produce an evil visionary such as Herr Hi-ler. There is indeed a narrow boundary which separates visionaries from demagogues).

4. Committees rarely have a discrete and well defined “mission”.  All to often their one and only task is to support or improve the institution, and/or the leader.  Thus their very mission is protective and defensive.

Enough for now.  Save to say that I agreed to join a Committee which has to do with religious ministry in some of our local Colleges.    My first meeting took place last evening.  Within 29 minutes of the meeting I heard my inner groans. “Why, oh why did I agree to join this Committee?”

My best answer was this:  “To please (n) [a fabulous person who recruited me]”. 

That was a crummy answer, for it had more to do with me and my needs than with the task at hand.  Now I will have to do my best to be a "good Committee person"




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