I’m reading Mobilizing Congregations, in which John Wimberly spells out the difference between a team and a committee for getting things done in churches. In essence, committees are for governance and teams are for ministry work. That’s a crude distinction (governance is ministry too) but I agree with the spirit of it. Committees are best for things like overseeing and supporting staff, making budgets, formulating policies and procedures, and making reports to a higher body. Teams are a better tool for planning events, recruiting volunteers, organizing tasks, and so on.
Wimberly’s argument is that most of what churches should be doing today require teams, not committees. That’s a helpful insight to apply to new work. Someone is suggesting a new youth-and-family camping trip? Let’s pull together a team and set it loose to make it happen (we just did this at my church). Let’s not ask the Youth Ministry Committee to plan it. Nothing against the Youth Ministry Committee–some of the same people are on it as are on the team planning the camping trip–but it has a different scope of work. It should report about the camping trip to the Session, not plan the camping trip.
How do you turn a committee into a team, though? If you’re not starting from scratch but with a history, if a collective of people need to be working as a team but are stuck in a committee mold, how do you break that mold and reform the committee into a team? Assuming they don’t actually need to be a committee–that is, there’s no other entity for them to report to and they have no power to make enforceable policies–how do you make a body that operates that way into one that functions as a team?
That feels like more than a process question. I did the process in my first church. Within my first six months I changed all the committees into “Ministry Teams” and wound up deflated two months later that–gasp!–they still functioned as committees.
Maybe this: start calling it a “team.” Add new people who don’t have committee expectations. Invite people to be on a “team,” even though the people already there call it a “committee.” Allow those newbies to model a different way of working. Then invite some more. Maybe after awhile the people who were used to the committee mode will come to prefer the team mode and choose, quietly, to adapt.
Maybe it’s a better use of a leader’s energy to just start functioning differently than it is to appeal to a committee to change into a team.