United Church of Christ

July 2019

July 2019 COMma

“Dear COM Chair, I have a real issue with the pastor. No, I can’t go to the Pastoral Relations Committee – they are all the pastor’s yes-people.”
“Dear COM Chair, I am having trouble with my Pastoral Relations Committee, as my biggest detractor insists on sitting on the PRC and it’s not a safe space for me to share honestly about my work.”

The purpose of a Pastoral Relations Committee, or PRC (sometimes called PPRC, for Pastor-Parish Relations Committee) is to support the healthy relationship between pastor and congregants in order to promote healthy, faithful, shared ministry. It does this in two primary ways: by serving as an advisory group to the minister, sharing ideas, dreams, expectations, and concerns of the congregation with the pastor; and by serving as a support group for the pastor’s leadership, interpreting roles, functions, boundaries, opportunities, and needs of the pastor to the congregation. PRCs are places to help the minister and the congregation maintain appropriate expectations for the scope of the minister’s work, and for the pastor to be able to test visions and receive support for their continued growth in ministry.

When these committees work well, they promote honest communication, provide robust support and advocacy for the pastor, create confidential spaces for clear communication, and provide opportunities for the minister and the committee to reflect on their ministry. They are composed of spiritually mature, thoughtful people who have the respect of both the congregation and the pastor, and who model discernment, prayerfulness, integrity, and trustworthiness. These individuals are vitally interested in the life and mission of the congregation, are able to maintain confidences, and can appreciate differing points of view and to reconcile differences.

When these committees do not work well, they promote triangulation and anonymous complaints, circumvent church decision-making processes, and create an adversarial group opposed to the pastor’s leadership. These committees are composed of individuals with a particular ax to grind (either in the life of the church or against the minister), who are prone to gossip and anonymous complaints, who either avoid conflict or create it for destructive purposes, and who have difficulty maintaining appropriate confidences.

Committees on Ministry have a role in encouraging congregations to develop healthy and robust Pastoral Relations Committees, encouraging ministers to work in partnership with these groups, and in working with congregations who need training or equipping for such committees.

For more information on Pastoral Relations Committees, see this article on Pastoral Relations Committees, which is taken from A Sure Foundation, a MESA resource for congregations and pastors in ministry together. Register now to attend a MESA Zoom training on Pastoral Relations Committees on December 17 at 7:00pm ET.

What churches in your Association have effective PRCs? How can your Committee on Ministry encourage other congregations to create Pastoral Relations Committees? What education and training might be needed, and how can you work with Conference/Association staff to make that education available?

Other COM News:
The MESA Team is hard at work finalizing Section 3 Resources for the Manual on Ministry. Each month, we will use this newsletter to inform you of uploaded resources available at the Manual on Ministry page. Access these materials from the website as needed; over time they will be updated periodically, with most recent revisions noted at the bottom of the document. Current resources have a blue stained glass banner and are easily identified as Section 3 Resources. Recent uploads include:
Section 2:1 Members in Discernment

  • MID Advisor Best Practices
  • Sample Outlines of Portfolio Presentations and Ordination Papers

Section 2:6

  • Fitness Review Reporting Form
  • Sample Agenda for Fitness Review Adjudication Meetings

The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online. Please check this site regularly for updates. MESA will host several sessions introducing the new Manual on Ministry to the Church in 2019. This year, we are requiring advance registration, so click the link at least one hour in advance of the training (but as early as desired). Here are some upcoming trainings:
Below are the upcoming offerings:

  • July 30, 2:00 – 4:00pm ET, Fitness Review/Response Team Training with Elizabeth Dilley.
    This training provides an overview of the Fitness Review Process, with an emphasis on the role of the Response Team.
  • August 21, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, COM Orientation with Tony Clark
    New to a Committee on Ministry? Worried about what you need to know? Confused by all the acronyms? Wondering whose MOM has all the answers? Join in this conversation that will orient you to your ministry of being on a Committee on Ministry (also good for those who are still confused after some time on the COM!).

The MESA Team is seeking applicants for the Minister for Ministerial Support and Accountability position. The job description and application information can be found here. The application deadline is August 15, 2019. Please share broadly with individuals who might be interested in this critically important work (including Committee on Ministry members!).


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