8 Reasons the Number of Church Committees Sometimes Gets Out of Control

Maybe you’ve seen the church that has 100 members and 25 committees. I’m using those numbers as an example, of course, but they’re not far enough from percentages I’ve seen in some churches. Some churches have so many committees you wonder how they accomplish anything. Here are some reasons these numbers have gotten out of control in many churches:

  1. Many churches have a long history, and they’ve simply added committees over the years. Nobody set out to have too many committees; it’s just happened that way over the decades (and sometimes centuries) of their existence. 
  2. The church has established a committee structure as their go-to norm. A need arises, so the congregation sets up a committee. That’s the only response they know, and the church with committees just continues the proliferation. 
  3. Nobody has looked at the committee structures with intentionality. When a review does happen, it happens in the context of a constitution and by-laws overhaul – which naturally does not occur often. Even then, some churches seldom consider reducing committees. 
  4. Some leaders view committees as ways to get members involved. That may be the case in some instances, but setting up additional committees with just a few slots of service is not the best way to involve a high percentage of members. 
  5. Some members are so accustomed to committees they’ve come to see them as part of their denominational identity. In my world, it’s “We’re Baptist, and traditional Baptists [translation: real Baptists] are led by committees.” They cannot imagine a church without committees.  
  6. Committees can become a place of power, and those in power don’t want to see any change. If they lose their seat at the table, they lose their authority in the church. They don’t mind adding other committees, but only so long as their committee is still the primary one. 
  7. Committees are hard to discontinue. Once they’re in place, it’s tough to move them out—especially if they’re established in the church constitution. Sometimes it’s just easier to create a new committee to work around the old committee that’s no longer effective. 
  8. Overall, nobody’s thinking strategically about the church’s structure. I’ve done church consultations where I’ve been amazed by the number of committees in a church, but the leaders themselves have no idea how many committees they have. Typically, I learn that same church has no strategic plan for evaluation and improvement in place. 

What reasons would you add to this list? 

3 Comments

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    I was taught that if you wanted to have an effective committee in a Baptist church, you included in the proposal for the committee the names of the chairman and the members (all of whom had been recruited beforehand and were on board as far as what the committee was supposed to accomplish), the concise description of the task that they were to accomplish, and how the church would know that the committee had accomplished the task, and a proviso that once it had accomplished the task, the committee would disband, its reason for its existence having ceased with the accomplishment of its task. The way to have an ineffective committee was to go to the congregation with an unclear proposal, leave the selection of the committee chairman and the committee members to the congregation, the defining of the task of the committee, and the setting of the length of its existence to the congregation. I have served on a number of committees and task forces over the years. To be effective a committee or task force needs a clearly-defined task which everyone understands and with which they are in agreement, clearly defined sequential goals or objectives to accomplish the task, and a clear idea of how everyone will know that the task has been accomplished. When I was a social worker, I did what was called task-oriented case work. Both you and your client had a clear idea of what the two of you were working toward and how you both would go about it. This is something that can be taught to church committees and they should be required to use it. Otherwise they deteriorate into discussion groups that have no idea where they are going and how they will know they got there. When a committee has a clear end goal and a clear idea of the steps that it needs to reach that goal, it can troubleshoot what is not working when it experiences difficulties in carrying out its task. Teaching this methodology to committee members should be a regular part of committee member orientation in which all committee chairmen and committee members should be required to take part. They should also be tested, yes, tested at the completion of this orientation, to ensure that they have been paying attention! It should be clearly conveyed to all committees that they exist to accomplish specific tasks and not to shoot the bull. Committee member orientation should be held at frequent enough interviews that no one gets left out. There also should be periodic internal and external reviews of a committee’s effectiveness.

  • Norris Landry says:

    Please share some good alternatives for committees and how the church should be “run”. (Please note the quotations).
    Norris

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I’m not opposed to having committees in a church. My concern is that sometimes we have many that are irrelevant today or are mis-focused in their work. I do think it’s valuable to have lay leaders involved in the work of the church.

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