Excellent communication is an essential value of COM work, and that value is expressed in the ways that Committees keep records and communicate with individuals seeking or holding standing, congregations or other ministry settings, and other settings of the United Church of Christ (including other Committees on Ministry). Record-keeping and correspondence may seem like some of the most mundane work a Committee on Ministry does, but in truth it is some of the most critical work for a COM. The Marks of Faithful and Effective Committees on Ministry, found in Section 1 of the Manual on Ministry, calls COMs to (among other things): hold confidentialities as appropriate, including the secure maintenance of ministerial files; and to communicate in a timely and clear manner.
Faithfully fulfilling this value requires the participation of all COM members, not just the secretary or the Association/Conference Registrar. Excellent communication includes ensuring that:
- those who engage with the COM know what information they need to provide to the committee prior to the meeting, when and where the Committee will meet, and how long the meeting is expected to last;
- the Committee itself has an agenda ahead of time;
- communication to the Committee is conveyed to all members in a timely manner;
- minutes of all meetings are available and accessible to the COM and to conference staff, and that actions of the COM are appropriately recorded in the UCC Data Hub;
- files of those seeking standing and those with standing are maintained appropriately and are accessible to those who need access (including Conference staff);
- Information Reviews are sent out annually, Three- and Four-Way Covenants are finalized at the time of call, and endorsement paperwork is filed with the correct agencies;
- those seeking to transfer their standing into or out of the Association know where to have their files shared and to with whom; and
- the Committee understands its responsibilities and has the resources available to undertake them.
Committees on Ministry need to develop and follow policies governing their files, including who has access to what information, and how to facilitate the transfer of information contained in their files. Such policies must be in keeping with the Manual on Ministry. For example, MESA strongly encourages that all ministerial files be kept in perpetuity, and that the files for those who have died, transferred their standing to another Association, or lost standing for any reason be kept in a separate archive from the files of active ministers within the Association. A suggested outline of contents for ministerial files as well as sample documents for COMS are currently available online. The new Manual on Ministry, available later this fall, will have additional resources with best practices for record-keeping.
Questions for Reflection
- Who is responsible for the creation and maintenance of records for your Committee on Ministry? Who has access to the records of your COM? Do you have any policies in place that govern the access or usage of these records?
- Do those who wish to meet with your Committee know who to contact in order to get on your agenda? Does your Committee reach out to ministers new to the Association, or to those whose Periodic Vocational Discernment needs to be scheduled? How might you begin to facilitate two-way communication between the COM and those with whom you meet?
- What is the most common feedback you hear about your COM’s patterns of communication? How might you address this feedback, building on strengths or shoring up weaknesses in those patterns?
- How are annual Information Reviews disseminated and collected? Who is your conference Data Hub administrator and what is the process for ensuring that the UCC Data Hub is kept up to date?
Other COM News:
The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online.
- On August 23 at 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, learn about best practices for Pastoral Relations Committees [this training is open to all, so please feel free to share this with clergy and congregations in your Association].
- On August 28 at 2:00 – 4:00pm ET, explore the role of Response Teams in the Fitness Review Process.
- On September 20 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, explore the Ministry of COMs.
Each training is hosted by a member of the MESA Team, with space on Zoom for up to 50 participants. No registration is required; click on the title of the training you want to attend at the time it is scheduled to start.
Blessings and gratitude,
The Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ