As we reimagine how to do the work of a congregation, we need to take into account that younger folks (and by “younger” I mean people under 50) are wary of making commitments without fully understanding the implications. These people want to feel like they are making a contribution that makes a difference. Expecting members to attend meetings out of a sense of duty (with no pragmatic objectives) will repel the next generation of leaders.
How should we pragmatically organize the groups that do the work of the congregation? The Rev, Marian Stewart offers this framework:
Long-term groups that have legal and structural responsibilities. In some models, these are referred to as Standing Committees.
For example: Endowment, Finance, Human Resources, Rentals.
Ongoing responsibilities but membership terms/commitments may be informal or formal and can vary from short to long-term. Mostly these groups are responsible for the church programs and activities. In some models, this group forms a Program Council that meets several times a year to do calendaring, find partner groups to sponsor events, etc.
For example: Communications, Membership, Religious Education, Social Justice, Worship.
A group of people who gather around an identified need that has a defined goal or time-limit.
For example: Bylaws revision, policy creation, insurance coverage change.
Despite its name, a Search Committee might also be defined as a Task Force, although it has a much longer impact and involvement in the life of the congregation.
A group of people responsible for one-time or short series of activities.
For example: anniversary party, social gathering, ordination service.
All of these groups have a defined mission and purpose. Each fits into the overriding Long Range Plan, which has very distinct and accountable short, medium, and long term goals.
While the above structures and defined purposes are extremely useful, the real purpose of almost all groups is to learn to work together, build relationships, find meaning or experience spiritual growth, and do something to make this world a little better – even if that world is helping the church operate more smoothly as its fulfills its larger mission and vision.