I came to Western because I felt deeply called to this place and because I had a lot to learn.
What I mean by the latter is, I never thought I would be an Associate. I spent my first seven years of ministry as a solo and I never thought I could be an AP. I assumed that I would be miserable from not preaching every week (I’ve learned to deal with that by writing more) and I worried that would drive the Head of Staff to drink (so far, so good on that front…I think…). But as I talked to different churches about HOS positions for myself, they wanted proof that I could be on a multiple staff. So, here I am.
One of the most valuable things I’ve gleaned from Western is what to do about dysfunctional committees. Kris Thompson, the head of Calvary Women’s Services, and the HOS have been teaching me about this. Here are the three most important things that I’ve learned from them:
(1) Committees work on a bell curve. This comes from the HOS’ MBA training. In a large business, the employees work on a bell curve. In churches, our committees often do.
Which means, most of the time in a healthy organization, there will be a high-functioning committee, a low-functioning committee, and the rest of the committees will be somewhere in between.
Once I understood this as a normal phenomenon in most organizations, I quit thinking of it as “those blasted people on that darn committee” (okay, maybe those weren’t the exact words that I used…), and began thinking of it as “this is the committee that is going to need a bit of extra energy and work this year.”
I roll up my sleeves, and I know that there will be at least one that will need some extra tender lovin’ care. And, I can even begin to forecast which one is going to be a challenge in the coming year.
(2) Name the problem. When you can identify it (which can take a really long time), say it out loud. Put it on the table. No more dancing around the elephant like it’s not actually in the room. (This one’s huge with the sex scandals, isn’t it? No one likes to talk about those out loud… I know I don’t.)
When we hide the problem, or ignore it, we end up with blockages. It’s like a digestive system with all kinds of scar tissue. Nothing can pass through it. And then we’re miserable.
Yet, just as a proper diagnosis helps tremendously in GI situations, naming the problem also goes a long way in clearing it up in a church. After all, we have a great deal of power over something when we can name it.
(3) Change the culture of the committee. Kris is a master at this. She becomes ruthless at recruiting. No more letting the same exhausted people slide into that meeting for the next ten years. She is always working on new blood. She plugs in the best, brightest, most gifted, and energetic people that she can find.
And it works. Once there are new people around that table, the burnt-out ones often leave, and even if they don’t, it changes the culture. She also pushes us to preach about things (stewardship, Christian education, etc.), so that the larger church culture changes.
So what are your secrets? What do you do with those darn committees?
the elephant stunt’s by Banksy