… The Nominating Committee because their discernment of future leaders can make or break a congregation’s future. But this post isn’t about Nominating Committees. It’s about Personnel.
A very close second Most Important Committee in the Church is the Personnel Committee – that group of faithful volunteers who oversee the performance, calculate the salary and benefits, and ensure the evaluation of the church staff. (Note: The Personnel Committee of a Mid-Council or Higher Council of the Church is just as important.)
A Healthy Personnel Committee leads to A Healthy Staff which leads to A Healthy Congregation.
A Dysfunctional Personnel Committee leads to A Frustrated Staff which leads to A Stuck Congregation. We cannot afford to have dysfunctional Personnel Committees in the 21st Century Church.
Although it’s unscientific, this is what I’ve noticed through the years of serving the Church:
- The Personnel Committee often has no idea what the staff actually does. Yes, there are job descriptions, but job descriptions rarely capture the detailed work lives of a Church or Church-Related Staff.
- Human Resource Professionals can be helpful on a Personnel Committee, but they sometimes want to run a Church Staff/Church-Related Staff “like the real world.” While I appreciate reality as much as the next person, shouldn’t we in the Church aspire to create an atmosphere that “looks like Church” rather than looking like a bank or a factory or even The United Way? God calls the Church to be different from the world. (Note: this doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable. God deserves our very best work. But our goal is also to treat people with more dignity and grace than the average secular employer.)
- Sometimes people volunteer to be on the Personnel Committee because they don’t like the Pastor and this is one way to wield power over her.
- Sometimes people are chosen to serve on the Personnel Committee by the Pastor because they will be “Yes People” making it easier for the Pastor to do what he wants to do with minimal oversight.
- Sometimes Personnel Committees focus only on the negative (what needs to be improved) with little focus on the positive (what’s going well.)
- Sometimes the Personnel Committee forgets to enjoy the staff. Working together to create the best staff possible for the sake of the Gospel should be fun and inspiring. This is never the case if the only time staff sees the Personnel Committee is when something’s wrong.
What makes a great Church Personnel Committee?
- Agreement on Why The Church Exists and a culture of working side by side to make the Church’s Mission flourish. The Church doesn’t exist to prop up the Pastor, perpetuate an institution, or ensure that the floor is always clean and the flower arrangements are always fresh. Jesus didn’t die for any of those things.
- Authentic relationships based on trust and the reality that Church isn’t about us. If we trust each other, we can say pretty much anything (even hard-to-hear-things) and it’s not nearly as threatening. Because we are serving something greater than ourselves and it’s about That.
- Excellent communication. If the Personnel Committee says it will deliver New Position Descriptions by the end of the month, that’s what happens. If there is a problem, staff members are told immediately – not seven months later during an annual review. If expectations or roles are changing, staff should be told directly.
- Authentic appreciation. If there is no money for even a Cost of Living Adjustment this year, offer something else: an extra day or two paid vacation, a gift card, a kind word. “You are really doing a great job. Thank you.” goes a long way.
- Show up. If you are on a Personnel Committee, know your Church Staff. Say “hi” when you are in the office. Take concerns seriously. This is someone’s life you are dealing with.
Even if your congregation seems too small to have a Personnel Committee, it’s healthy and possible to have a small team (3 people) who can work together to ensure that those servants who are doing the professional work of the Church can thrive.
A special note to Mid-Councils: offering support for congregational Personnel Committees is well worth the effort. Our churches need information on how to create and keep a healthy Personnel Committee because our pastors and church staffs deserve it. It makes ministry go well.
When things are not going well, personnel responsibilities Take. So. Much. Time.(Nobody tells us this in seminary.) But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Lower image is the (blurry) sign on my office door wherever I’m serving: It’s not about you; it’s about growing the kingdom of God. I need to remind myself.
Thank you so much, Jan! I hope this message is received and taken to heart by all church staff and personnel committees. We should be leaders in the way we treat ALL staff, encouraging the building of a better church.