The Role of Committees in Church Governance

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As churches grow their management often becomes significantly more complicated than it was when the church was relatively small. A church’s board can find it difficult to give adequate attention to every issue that it considers. By delegating certain responsibilities to committees made up of a subset of the board’s members, a church can potentially improve the quality of its decision making.

What roles do board committees fill?

The specific composition and authority of a church board’s committees can depend upon the rules set out in the church’s governing documents. A parent church’s governance principles may also provide specific rules. Typically a board has flexibility to form committees as it sees fit, but the full board’s participation may be necessary to complete certain kinds of transactions, such as major financial decisions.

Part of the process of forming a committee is often the creation of a separate charter that describes the committee’s roles and responsibilities. The charter may also specify how decisions are made within the committee, how often it will meet, and the circumstances when the committee should pass decisions on to the full board for consideration. Committees can be formed for many different reasons. Here are some examples:

  • Event planning.
  • Ministry planning.
  • Audit and financial management.
  • Personnel matters, such as hiring and retention strategies, evaluation of benefits, and so forth.

Making good use of committees requires diligence

Although committees can relieve some board members of certain time commitments, it’s important to bear in mind that committees can add additional layers of complexity to governance. Committees need to meet separately from the full board and may not have the authority to make final decisions on important topics. They can also become sources of conflict.

Church leaders should strive to keep an open mind about the value and role of their committees. Committees may drift from their intended purpose or simply cease to have value. Leaders need to be willing to reorganize or dissolve committees as circumstances change.

The Church Law Center understands church governance

The Church Law Center of California counsels churches and secular nonprofits in all aspects of their organization and governance. We can help your church sort through its management challenges and craft policies that will help it reach its full potential. Call us today at (949) 689-0437 or reach out to us through our contact page.

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