What if a committee wants to do something you disagree with? Or what if you want to lead somewhere they don’t want to go? Can you veto? Can they veto? Youth ministry is a team sport, but of course there will be disagreements. Today we explore….
“How much decision making/power does the committee have?”
Andrew Noe is the Student Minister at Rosemont Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, and the moderator of this blog. He enjoys superheroes, and trying to be funny. He is married to the wonderful and amazing Hannah Noe, and they are excited for their first child to arrive mid-July. They also have a super intelligent dog named Daphne, and a water-obsessed cat named Ellie.
This question will probably have a different answer for every youth minister who ponders it. I am going to give you a collection of my thoughts on this matter. They don’t all tie nicely together, and I know I don’t have a perfect way of doing things.
The longer I am with my current committee the more comfortable I feel with their ideas/suggestions/dreams. I have been at my church just under a year and a half, and in that time the committee has formed, and we meet on an every-other-month basis. As the months have passed, and the trust has been built, I want and desire to give them more power and decision making. I have seen in their actions and deeds that this is a group who takes their role in guiding the youth ministry seriously. The more we know each other the better we work together.
I think a trap young ministers (including myself) can fall in to with committees is trying to show we deserve the job. We often think we have to prove we know what we are doing to others. Sadly we are more often trying to convince ourselves we know what we are doing. This means in a meeting if someone raises a question or suggestion we might react poorly, feeling like our knowledge is being questioned. My advice: Suck it up. We are young and are still gaining experience. Listen to those who have been with the ministry for years. Don’t let your pride close the conversations and make you unapproachable.
I want to give my group decisions, while keeping the options theologically healthy for the youth. As a minister I have the time and resources to research Bible studies, camps, and conferences. I use that opportunity to find a few options that I believe resonant with where our youth are at, and where the church is at. The options that I feel wouldn’t help the youth grow spiritually, or that would do damage to their theology I don’t bring to the table. Once I bring a few options to the table though, the decision rests with the committee. They also know and love the youth, and I have to be willing to trust the committee for everyone to have ownership in the youth ministry.
Lastly, I make an agenda. One of the members on my committee suggested this and so now I email out an agenda for the meeting about a week before. It has bullet points of what I hope to cover, and sometimes a question or two for them to ponder before the meeting. They also have the power to add something to the agenda if they feel there is something we need to discuss. This helps everyone be prepared for the meeting, and helps them know what the expectations of what we hope to accomplish. On the day after the meeting, I type up what we discussed and what the course of action moving forward is and send it out. People who miss the meeting get caught up, and we have something tangible that reminds us why we met.
While a Missouri-native, Abby Pratt currently lives in Richmond, VA where she serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Mission at Central Baptist Church. Abby graduated from Wake Forest University School of Divinity in 2014 and was ordained by Peace Haven Baptist Church (also in Winston-Salem, NC). With roots in Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia, Abby is a fan of KU Basketball, the Kansas City Royals, CookOut Milkshakes, and tacky Christmas lights.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” African Proverb
As a first time youth minister one of the things I did upon starting my job was form a youth committee. I invited a combination of older youth, parents, and adult volunteers who best represented the group as a whole. In my mind this was the perfect solution for learning about the dynamics of the group and planning events that everyone wanted to attend. I was fully prepared for (and content with) my committee making the majority of decisions for the group. My ideal plan didn’t turn out as I had intended. Instead of a Committee Utopia I found that our meetings were not productive, I was still making all the decisions, and the group was confused about why they were on the committee.
Feeling discouraged, I consulted with my ministry coach about how to be effective when leading a committee. Some of the best advice I received was to create structure and model the leadership I desired for my committee members to exhibit. Prior to this conversation I realized that in an attempt to create an atmosphere in which all voices were viewed as equal, I had neglected to establish a common vision for the group. I found that as the youth minister it was my responsibility to nurture and grow the committee.
While I still don’t have all the answers, this is what I am attempting to do differently in order empower, educate, and delegate responsibilities within my youth committee.
Plan Ahead and Provide an Excess of Information:
Timing is everything and even more so when planning youth events. When preparing to meet with my committee I make a list of all the upcoming events and their required deadlines. The group is then able to select the events they are most interested in-like a Youth Event Menu. “I would like Passport Choices in July with a side of volunteering with the local summer reading club.” By making a list I am able to set boundaries regarding how we invest our time, talents, and money. The list is also helpful in balancing the various types of events in which we participate.
Be Clear on What I (as the leader) Need:
In order to be a good steward of others’ time, I have found it is necessary to distinguish between when I need my committee to act as over-seers or as decision-makers. I recognize that there are times when I need my committee to trust and support me in decisions that are made outside of the committee. In these situations I need to be clear that I am seeking blessing, not a discussion of alternative options. At other times (and hopefully most of the time) I will ask that we make decisions together. Clear communication does not only save time, it also builds trust and limits frustration.
Create Space to Dream:
Each committee meeting I take time to stop talking and just listen. In doing so it is my goal to remove pre-set boundaries, opinions, and expectations and ask committee members to share individual visions for our youth ministry program. I value this time because it allows the committee to learn new things about one another and as a leader I am able to listen to and learn from those who I am leading among.
I think committees should make the majority of decisions for youth groups. Just as a church belongs to its congregation, youth groups belong to the youth (and their families). But effective committees need youth ministers to educate and guide committee members to make decisions that are healthy and prosperous. In forming and empowering youth committees, youth ministers are instilling healthy practices that will last long after their time in the church.