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Distinctions of a Committee on Ministry

From “The Committee On Ministry (COM) Model” by Rev. Robert T. Latham

Focus

  • Mission is why a congregation exists.
     
  • Ministry is everything it does to fulfill this mission.
     
  • Mission is reason for being and ministry is how that reason is processed.
     
  • This mission and ministry are inseparable. Form follows function. Mission is function and ministry is form. The latter will always reflect the former.
     
  •  Thus, whatever the stated mission, the form will reveal the congregation’s real mission. An audit of where the congregation’s energy is dominantly focused will display this real mission.

Principle

  • There is a singular principle that governs the religious community driven by congregational polity: the congregation owns its mission and ministry.
     
  • This means that all leadership and all organizational life are servants of this principle.
     
  • Therefore, all success and all failure are owned by the responsible congregation. This is true irrespective of all other attributions having to do with success and failure.
     
  • Powerful and transforming congregations are always invested in ownership of this responsibility.

Oversight

  • The Committee On Ministry is concerned with the spiritual health of the entire ministry of the congregation—as a reflection of mission fulfillment.
     
  • The Ministerial Relations Committee (MRC) is concerned with the spiritual health of the relationship between the professional minister and the congregation—as a reflection of a unique alliance.
     
  • One essential problem of the MRC is that its goal is to achieve and maintain a good relationship with the congregation rather than to specifically empower the ministerial leadership toward fulfillment of the congregation’s mission and ministry. Thus, its very existence is grounded in a public relations goal that is not necessarily compatible with either the purpose of professional ministry or the congregation’s reason for being.

Confusion

  • The COM, as outlined in this document, was invented in the early 1980s.
     
  • Its title was usurped in the 1990s as a new label for the old MRC.
     
  • This application of the COM title to the function of the MRC implies that the congregation’s ministry is about a professional relationship rather than a leadership devoted above all else to the fulfillment of religious mission.
     
  • This shift has created confusion between the two models. It is important to be clear as to which model is being given the COM label and to validate the why of this usage.

Leadership

  • Lay Leadership tends to be:
    • Short term
    • Minimally trained
    • Part Time
    • Voluntary
       
  • Ministerial Leadership tends to be:
    • Long term
    • Maximally trained
    • Full Time
    • Vocational

This general comparison between lay and professional leadership does not lower or raise the value of either. It only underscores the nature and differences that exist between the two. Both are generally essential to institutional success. However, their nature and differences demand that each be utilized and assessed in different ways.

Principle: “Leadership makes everything happen that is going to happen.”

This principle applies to both lay and professional leadership and particularly to the possibilities inherent in their collaboration.

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Monday, August 19, 2013.

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