This week, a newly-elected Committee on Ministry chair called me to ask for input on a brief COM orientation she planned to lead. “I’m so glad you asked!” I replied. Here are some of the essential foundations for a Committee on Ministry orientation:
- Serving on a COM is a ministry of the whole United Church of Christ. Committee members should be identified as persons with gifts and skills for this ministry. The Marks of Faithful and Effective Committees on Ministry, which are found on pages 21-22 in the 2017 Draft Manual on Ministry identify core competencies and essential functions of a Committee on Ministry. In the UCC, the authority for approving, supporting, and holding accountable people for ministry rests in the Committee on Ministry, not an individual such as a bishop or conference minister. Collectively, COMs have the power to say “Yes” and “No” faithfully and responsibly, on behalf of the whole denomination.
- Saying “no” is not a rejection of a person or a denial of their call, but it is necessary when a COM determines that someone’s call or capacity does not meet the needs of the UCC for authorized ministry. Authorization for ministry is a privilege, not a right – and the Committee on Ministry holds the authority to discern whether individuals have the gifts and ability to steward that privilege with care and faithfulness.
- A COM’s best resources to do the work of authorization and oversight are the Manual on Ministry, and Conference or Association staff, who resource Committees on Ministry and provide great insight into the interpretation and implementation of the Manual on Ministry.
- Reflect on common values that shape your work, and the practices that flow out of them. For example, COMs value excellent communication, so COMs appoint a registrar or secretary who communicates effectively with those who meet with the committee, and who ensures that all paperwork is in order. COMs also value racial and gender justice, so COMs ensure diverse representation in their membership, critically examine their collective assumptions about ministry, and practice consistency in all discernment and oversight processes as a way to guard against bias.
Questions for Reflection
- What elements of this orientation would be most helpful for your Committee to reflect on?
- What else would you explore in a COM orientation in your Association/Conference?
- Do all your Committee on Ministry members receive this newsletter? Ask them to sign up here; this page also has information about upcoming MESA trainings for COMs.
Other COM News:
The MESA Team recognizes and appreciates the eagerness of the wider church for updates on the Manual on Ministry, based on the Habakkuk Group’s final discernment in response to the 2017 feedback processes. We welcome your patience as we take the time to edit the final articulation of Habakkuk’s work. A short overview of changes will be released to the wider church soon, and in the meantime, Committees on Ministry can feel confident in their use of the 2017 drafted MOM.
MESA’s annual Member in Discernment gathering will take place April 12-13 at the Church House; please keep our MIDs in your prayers.
The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online.
- On March 19th at 3:30-5:00pm ET, go in depth in the new UCC Ministerial Code.
- On March 22nd at 2:00-3:30pm ET, dig into ways to assess competence with the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers.
- April trainings will focus on Conference and Association staff; look for more trainings in May and beyond.
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.
Looking for a way to appreciate your Committee on Ministry members and to celebrate the particular church nerdy-ness & dedication that make possible Committee on Ministry work? Have a little fun and give the gift of our “Keep COM and Carry On” t-shirts, now on sale for only $5.00 at UCC Resources.
Praying for the blessings of Lent and Easter to sustain you and your committees in your work,
Rev. Elizabeth Dilley
Minister for Ministers in Local Churches
MESA – Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ