Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Next Generation Leadership

A couple of years ago, I resigned from a committee in our church.  I was chair and had served on the committee in the past.  My resignation was prompted by my lack of passion for the work the committee was assigned and a feeling that the committee had outlived its usefulness.  I was both surprised and appreciative when a member of the committee on committees called and asked me the reason for my resignation and any comments she might share with her committee.  I explained my reasons and she expressed her thanks for my candor.  Of course, the committee still exists and I was simply replaced.

The point of my sharing this incident is that it illustrates how difficult it is to kill a committee even when it has outlived (in my humble opinion) its usefulness.  In an effort to share leadership, Baptist churches in the 20th century learned how to do committees well.  Most committees had specific responsibilities and helped to involve larger numbers of church members in the functions of the church.  The question we must face today is, “Will the committee structure survive in the 21st century?”  My own opinion is that it will not.

One reason for this is the difficulty in finding young or median adults who are willing to make a three year commitment to serve.  We will not enlist and nurture a new generation of church leaders by putting them on committees, especially if most of those assignments do not provide any sense of fulfillment.

There is certainly a place for specific leadership groups that serve for an extended period of time to further the work of the church.  Some churches have adopted three standing committees that deal with the major functions of church life in the 21st century—personnel, property, and finances.  The personnel committee is involved in the hiring, support, and evaluation of paid staff.  In the event of staff dysfunction or failure, they address the issue on behalf of the congregation.  The finances committee makes sure that a budget is developed, financial gifts are handled appropriately, and the bills are paid.  The property committee cares for the daily operations and maintenance of church facilities.  All of these are usually policy-making groups with some hands on activity.

In many churches, teams have taken the place of committees.  Teams are responsible for planning worship, designing and leading Christian formation processes, and guiding mission and ministry activities.  Teams have fluid membership and assignments so that they can move quickly to meet changing needs and opportunities.  Team members may serve for either short or extended periods of time.

If we want young and median adults to become part of the operational committees or leadership teams of the church, we must be willing to answer these questions for them.

First, how does this further our mission?  Does the work of the group help the church to accomplish what it understands that God has called it to do?

Second, how does this help others?  Does this activity nurture those within our fellowship in a meaningful way?  Does this extend our outreach into the community or world? 

Third, will the time I spend here produce measurable results? Does this really make any difference or am I just wasting my time?

We can no longer expect people just to “fill the slots” so that our church’s organizational chart will be complete. We must enlist them in meaningful work that will give them the opportunities to use their gifts, skills, and passions while making a difference in the world.

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