Board Message – March

“Ministry is the act of serving. Shared ministry is what “we” do to serve our congregation and the broader community, individually and together” – definition of shared ministry developed at the January 2009 Board Retreat.

This past January, we had a joint retreat between the Board of Trustees and the Committee on Ministry (COM). To my knowledge, this was the first time these two groups have done this together.

Before the retreat day, we all were assigned some reading in “Churchworks,” a great book on church governance by Anne Odin Heller. That day we had a productive time discussing our roles in the church within the context of shared ministry.

One important outcome from the meeting was a better understanding between the Board and the COM. I think that it is safe to say that most of us have had little formal training in church leadership and what we have received has been through the “on the job training” method. As a result, there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge about what different groups do within the church. The discussion that day helped clarify both the Board’s and the Committee on Ministry’s functions and responsibilities. Let me share some of that knowledge with you.

The Board of Trustees is made up of elected members who together constitute the executive body of the church. It is this group’s responsibility to consider and make decisions involving congregational vision, mission, and policy. In addition, the Board is entrusted by the congregation to make financial and legal decisions for the church. This means that the President, Vice President, Treasurer and the rest of the Board have a fiduciary duty to keep the church legally and financially safe by making the best decisions they can. This can be a heavy responsibility and one the Board takes seriously.

While I think that most members of the congregation have some idea about the Board’s duties, many members know less about the activities of the Committee on Ministry. This committee is different from any other committee in the church. First, unlike most other standing committees, the members of the COM are jointly appointed by the Board and the Minister. The COM does not answer to the Board, but is responsible with the Board and the Minister for supporting, monitoring and assessing the health of our church-wide ministry. The COM meets monthly with the minister to discuss issues which impact our congregation’s spiritual health. This kind of work requires deep honesty and candor among the members of the committee, and for this reason the meetings are usually confidential. That being said, members of the congregation may bring issues of concern to the COM for discussion, advice and facilitation.

One important outcome from our joint Board/COM retreat was a better understanding between the two groups on how we can work together to assess our church’s health. Our COM is in a unique position to know what is and is not working within our congregation, and they have agreed to share their assessments with the Board at least annually. Their feedback should help the Board do a better job of serving the needs of the congregation on all levels.

So, stay tuned. This is a new beginning. Future columns will discuss how the Board, COM, clergy, staff and the congregation, can work together to strengthen our ministry within and outside of our church.

~Darryl Ray, Board President