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The Value of a Pastoral Relations Committee

July 18, 2023

How do you improve communication between the pastor and the congregation? One of the most effective methods for strengthening the lines of communication is the formation of a Pastoral Relations Committee which can bring value to both the pastor and the congregation.

What is a Pastoral Relations Committee?

A Pastoral Relations Committee is usually comprised of three to five people in addition to the minister. The goal of the committee is to give support to the pastor and facilitate healthy communication with the congregation. The Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the pastor and also advocates for the pastor’s leadership.

In their advisory role, the Pastoral Relations Committee contributes to the church’s ministry by sharing the concerns and hopes of the congregation with the pastor. The Committee also acts as the primary support group for the pastor by conveying the needs and functions of the pastor to the congregation. For a church with a large staff, this committee can function as a Church/Staff Relations Committee, providing a liaison between all church staff and the congregation.

Why Have a Pastoral Relations Committee?

A Pastoral Relations Committee:

  1. Fosters spiritual health and connection between the pastor, congregation and staff

    When the body of Christ has a healthy way to share expectations and issues of concern, the life of the church is lifted up, and the congregation is likely to be more connected and engaged as a whole in the ministries of the church. The committee also offers an arena to address misunderstandings before they become more serious problems.

    Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) states that “…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint…makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love.” This reminds us that there are multiple ways for a congregation to reach out but the church is meant to be one ministry in Christ with diverse means of touching lives.

  2. Offers wide-ranging support to the pastor and church staff

    Every pastor needs to have confidence that there is ongoing support for their leadership and a real understanding of the high level of stress they experience. The committee provides a supportive environment for the pastor – and their family. This is critical because a frequent cause of stress is negotiating the time and tension between pastoral duties and private/family life. This committee serves as the space that the pastor and pastoral staff can honestly state their needs and concerns.

  3. Provides an avenue for regular communication

    When communication between pastor and people is consistently conveyed and the pastor feels supported amidst the stress of the multiple responsibilities he/she handles, the church is able to focus and respond to ministry needs with far greater impact and scope.

The Functions of the Committee include:

  • Advocating for the pastor in financial matters and assist in communicating to church members about issues such as compensation, housing, ministry-related expenses, benefits and flex-spending accounts for health and dependent care
  • Understanding the responsibilities of ministry, the role of the pastor and other staff persons in relation to the congregation and its ministry
  • Serving as mediator in matters where conflict arises and discern when outside assistance needs to be brought in to resolve escalating tensions
  • Participating in the pastoral and staff review process. This includes establishment of performance goals, assessing job performance against these goals, making recommendations on compensation and advocating on behalf of the pastor and staff to the budget committee or other group responsible for personnel
  • Supporting the pastor in broadening their knowledge and skills through continuing education opportunities
  • Assisting with hiring and departure of staff. This is especially critical as pastoral staff transitions can be one of the most vulnerable times in the life of a congregation

Select Committee Members Carefully

Both the pastor and congregation need to have input in selecting the committee, but it is essential that the pastor has a good relationship with all members. The pastor needs to be able to share with the utmost trust, safety and confidentiality – to “remove their robe” without judgment.

Committee members need to be:

  • Examples of Christian character and integrity
  • Exhibit a love and knowledge of Christ and commitment to the congregation
  • Supportive of the minister but also sensitive to the concerns of the congregation and minister
  • A patient and discerning listener, aware of body language and tone; skilled in active listening
  • Knowledgeable about human relations, communications and conflict resolution
  • Operate with the utmost confidentiality including with spouse and partners
  • Free from conflict of interest with other groups in the church; i.e. they should not sit on the church Finance Committee

When the Pastoral Relations Committee partners with the pastor, meets regularly, remains focused on good communication and brings an open spirit, they provide long-term value to the church’s ministry.

This article was originally published by MMBB to its website in June 2019. Excerpts from this article appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Church Executive Magazine.

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