Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith. (Galatians 6:2, 10)
What is a Pastoral Relations Committee?
A Pastoral Relations Committee is a standing committee, generally of three to five persons. It meets regularly with the pastor bringing the congregation’s concerns. It also advocates for the pastor’s leadership in the church. By facilitating communication between the pastor and the congregation, the committee helps build a solid base for effective witness and mission in the congregation, the community and the world.
A crucial first step in effective staff management is for the church to establish a Pastoral Relations Committee or, for churches with multiple staff, a Church/Staff Relations Committee. A Pastoral Relations Committee provides an avenue where your minister or pastoral staff can communicate openly with you about their needs. The committee can then advocate for fair compensation.
The committee can help address:
- Compensation, including cash salary, housing and utilities. Most churches also provide a Social Security/Medicare tax offset.
- Ministry-related expenses, which are church expenses the minister incurs while doing ministry. Examples of these expenses can be found on pages 33-34. These expenses should be listed in the church budget—separate from the minister’s compensation—and fully reimbursed.
- Benefits, including income protection, retirement benefits, flexible spending accounts for health and dependent care, and medical and dental benefits.
Through this process, the committee can promote the financial security of church employees and free them to do what they do best—provide for the spiritual well-being of the congregation.
From the 2012 MMBB Guide for Church-Related Employers. For the full guide, please visit our Download Documents & Resources section.
What is the Committee’s Role?
- Understanding the Role of Ministry – Committee members should know the church’s objectives and the role of the laity and pastoral staff. Knowing the pastor as preacher, teacher, counselor, worship leader, visitor and person will enhance the effectiveness of the committee’s mission.
- Provide a Vital Communication Link Between the Pastor, Staff and Congregation – A primary objective of the committee is to promote healthy dialogue between the congregation and the pastor and staff.
- Deal with Conflict – While the committee seeks to foster understanding and prevent unnecessary conflict, discord may arise. The committee can serve as a reconciler for some conflicts, but when more serious conflicts occur, additional resources should be used. The committee can provide a great service to the congregation by learning and teaching the art of successful negotiating.
- Review Compensation Annually for the Pastor and Staff – Every pastor and staff person will appreciate the church being intentional about fair pay. The pastor should feel free to speak openly about his or her expectations and needs. Then the committee should present its recommendations to other appropriate committee(s) – this will minimize any embarrassment for the pastor.
- Counsel Pastor Regarding Continuing Education – It is important that the committee support the pastor’s needs to improve skills by providing appropriate resources (time and money) for learning.
- Develop and Implement Fair and Just Personnel Practices – Provide good personnel practices in keeping with the Christian commitment to recognize the value of all persons. A properly trained committee will see that appropriate personnel procedures are followed.
- Assist in Employment or Departure of Staff – The committee should be aware of church staff openings. When there is a pastoral transition, the committee can help make it a smooth one.
- Enlist the Help of the Congregation for the Church’s Ministerial Leadership – Identify and encourage gifted persons in the congregation to assist in the church’s ministerial leadership, and create a climate of expectation where God’s call to vocational ministry can be heard.
Selecting Committee Members
Selecting effective committee members is crucial to the success of the church’s mission. The committee should be comprised of persons whose thoughts are valued by both the pastor and the congregation. It is imperative that the congregation and pastor have input in the selection process. It is recommended that the committee be established as a separate standing entity accountable only to the congregation and that the congregation set guidelines regarding the terms of service. Members of the committee can be chosen from the Board of Deacons, Board of Trustees, and other trusted congregation members in your church.
Key Ingredients in Selecting a Committee Member are His or Her Ability to:
- be an example in Christian character;
- demonstrate a commitment to Christ and the local congregation;
- communicate in a caring way (both to the pastoral staff and congregation);
- handle confidential material;
- foster trust in the congregation; and,
- negotiate and reconcile differences.
This article focuses on the needs of a pastor, but the entire ministerial staff, as well as the church, will benefit from a Pastoral Relations Committee.