The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law Jethro saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said…"What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out." - Exodus 18:13-27
Church, can we talk about committees for a minute? Come on, give me a chance, I heard you groaning all the way in Boston from an indeterminate point in the past.
Committee work is some of the most important work we do in the church. I don't mean the work itself of planning curriculum and organizing potlucks and a million other things—though that is important—what is critical about committee work is that it allows members of the church to exercise real authority over the direction of the congregation.
Back in the day, our forebears kicked off the heavy weight of clericalism and gave authority over all matters of the church to the laity. It was an amazing advancement, life-giving and faithful.
But too often today committee work falls too heavily on too few for too long. The authority to guide the life of the church can once again be found in just a few hands who wish they did not hold so much power and authority. Take a lesson from Jethro: if the most important leaders in your church are worn out by committee work, it may be time to fundamentally change the way your congregation makes decisions.
If that sounds like too big of a change, just think how Moses felt.
God, help us lead your people with the wisdom of Jethro.
John Edgerton is Associate Pastor at Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts.