Resources for Committees on Ministry

Overview on Committees on Ministry

“I was just elected to my congregation’s Committee on Shared Ministry, and we’re not sure exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. Can you help?”

“I hear that my congregation is supposed to have a Committee on Ministry, but we don’t. How do we start one? What should it do?”

Small flat skipping stones arranged in a spiral on top of sand.

We hear questions like these a lot. In this time when volunteer time and energy are precious and getting rarer, congregational leaders are often reluctant to staff a committee with no clear purpose. And volunteers are frustrated by vague descriptions of the role of their committee.

Theory and best practices about Committees on Ministry (or CoMs, also called Committees on Shared Ministry) have shifted several times in the recent past, and we feel they need to shift again for the current moment. We have collected the wisdom of Congregational Life staff with experience in congregations in different regions, congregations of different sizes, and congregations with different helpful and unhelpful experiences of Committees on Ministry to bring you our suggestions for CoMs right now.

Our goal is to give you the insights, ideas, tools, and permission to do the work of the Committee on (Shared) Ministry effectively, skillfully, faithfully, and in a way that feels purposeful and doable for your volunteers.

Ready for our hot take of the moment?

You Don’t Need to Have a Committee on Ministry!

But you do need to attend to the functions that have typically been managed by CoMs.

As is true in every area of congregational life, there is not a single way to do things that will work for every congregation. Some congregations will choose to assign all of these functions to a single standing committee, as has been the model in the past. If that works for you, great! We’ll have some suggestions for the specific functions that you can give to your CoM members to help.

But if staffing a new standing committee - or even staffing a long existing CoM is difficult or impossible for your congregation, there are other ways to make sure these specific functions are being skillfully attended to. In fact, other people or committees in your congregation may already be doing some of them right now.

If your congregation is large and rich in volunteers, you may actually want to break up some of these functions and give them to even more specialized teams.

Committee on Ministry Functions

Here are the functions that are often assigned to a Committee On Ministry that we believe are important to attend to:

  • Serving as thought partners to the minister(s)
  • Providing feedback from the congregation to the minister(s)
  • Performing regular formal evaluations of the minister(s)
  • Assessment of the congregation’s mission, and how the programs of the congregation align (or do not align) with the mission - or more generally attending to congregational vitality
  • Serving as the internal think tank for the congregation
  • Facilitating conflict engagement and resolution between members of the congregation, between the minister and congregational members, or between other congregational staff and congregation members

Other resources in this series on CoM Resources:

About the Authors

Erica Baron

Rev. Erica Baron joined the New England region staff in 2019, focusing on helping congregations live into their missions and develop their gifts for spiritual leadership. Before joining the Congregational Life staff, she served as parish minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the...

Sana Saeed

Rev. Sana Saeed is the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA since July. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity...

Patricia Infante

Patricia Hall Infante is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist who grew up in a large New York City congregation. Her first career as a contract negotiator was put on hold while she took the job of full-time mother to two wonderful boys (an investment that continues to pay dividends)....

Hilary Allen

Hilary began her tenure on Congregational Life staff in 2013 and is part of the programmatic team bringing the Practices of Spiritual Leadership to UU congregations. Originally from the Carolinas, Hilary delights in those magical facilitation moments when a group experiences some new insight or...

Melissa James

Dr. Melissa James, Congregational Life Field Staff in the Pacific Western Region, brings nearly 20 years of experience in faith-based ministry to the UUA. She earned her Masters of Arts from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC) with a focus was on faith and justice. Melissa holds a...

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