The anticipation builds as I walk to the podium and share the announcement the entire congregation has been waiting to hear. “My friends, it’s time for Nominating Committee again!” I pause as spontaneous applause thunders from the congregation. Shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Amen” ring through the sanctuary.
At least that’s how I imagine it. But it hasn’t happened yet. I can scarcely get an “Amen” every other year when it’s time for us to elect new ministry positions.
Why do we dread Nominating Committee? Is there a way to turn Nominating Committee into a blessing instead of a chore? Here are a few things I’ve learned through victories and failures during my years in ministry.
Nom Com basics
Though the church manual gives guidelines, one size does not fit all. Nominating Committee looks different based on the size and makeup of one’s church. However, one important decision must be made by all before you start. Will you use a Position Based Approach or a Gift Based Approach for the selection of ministry leaders?
Position based is when we merely try to fill positions of need. A gift based approach works to discover member’s spiritual gifts and then connect them with ministries that utilize those gifts. The gift based approach takes longer, but members enjoy ministry more when they are using their skillset.
For example, one nominating committee placed two women in our Adventurer Club: the experienced member as leader and the other as one of the teachers. After a few weeks both individuals came to me sharing their struggles. It became obvious they were in each other’s spots. The leader had the gift of teaching and the teacher possessed the gift of administration. I suggested they switch roles to better match their gifts and they both thrived.
AdventSource offers resources to help members discover their spiritual gifts in one afternoon.* At our church we also hand out a paper called Ministry Opportunities with a list of positions. Members mark roles they are interested in, which gives the committee a starting point for placing members in ministries.
This is the committee that selects the Nominating Committee. Sound confusing? Some churches do away with this step, and based on church size it is not always necessary. It can seem cumbersome to have a committee to select a committee to then select ministry leaders. But this step can help avoid a Good ol’ Boys Club model where a select few run the church. Having the entire membership choose this pre-committee allows everyone to have vote and voice in this important process. Members buy in to ministry far more when they are invited to be part of the process.
The real deal
If you’re selected to serve on the committee, kiss your family goodbye, promising to return some day. Well, it’s not quite that bad, but it can become a several week- or month-long process.
What should you do first? Pray, pray, PRAY! Bathe this whole endeavor with prayer. That is the key to success. Pray at each stage. Pray at each meeting. If you hit a snag, pray. If committee discussions get too hot, pray. Let God be in charge.
And speaking of being in charge, I find this process is better received if the chairperson of the Nominating Committee is not the pastor. The pastor must avoid looking like he or she is playing favorites. The pastor’s role is to guide and advise, but the committee has the final say in selecting officers. This is why a member should not serve on Nominating Committee twice in a row.
Additionally, the order of nomination is crucial. The committee should decide which positions are hardest to fill and start with them (for example, children’s Sabbath school, heads of ministries and elders).
The times, they are a changin’
Please forgive the Bob Dylan lyric, but Nominating Committee is indeed the time and place to handle change in the church. I tell my ministry leaders they actually have two jobs in their position. #1: Do the ministry. #2: Train a replacement. This helps members remember that no one holds church positions forever.
Change is not easy. Maybe you’ve noticed that at your church. But God has built our world to change. Nothing in nature stays the same. Culture doesn’t. Yes, God stays the same, but I’m guessing God is not holding any ministry positions at your local church.
The tricky part is when the committee decides to elect a new person to lead a ministry and the incumbent does not want to step down. In those instances, the pastor needs to meet with the member being asked to step down and try to help with the hurt they may feel. These conversations require careful navigation because the pastor is not at liberty to share everything from the committee’s discussion.
This requirement must be stated clearly at the beginning of the process. Members of the committee must feel free to speak their mind openly and honestly. If I discover that what is discussed in nominating committee is being spread, I will shut the whole committee down and start over with a new group. Once trust is broken the committee cannot function.
Too many No’s
What should the committee do if no one will accept a particular ministry office? First, ask if it is a key position such as treasurer or clerk. If not, leave it open. I was at a church one time where we could not find a Pathfinder leader. The committee turned to me and said, “I suppose the youth pastor will have to lead Pathfinders.” I replied with a smile, “No, he won’t.” I explained that if God wanted us to have a club, He would impress members to step up and lead. And sure enough, a leader came forward. Remember to trust that God is in this process.
You’re done! Almost.
Now you need to present the list to the church body for final approval. Do not vote on the first Sabbath. Ask members to prayerfully look over the list, and if they have questions to speak to the chairperson or pastor after church.
I heard about a church where objections were shouted from the floor during the worship service! That is not the time or place. Inform objectors that they can address the Nominating Committee if they want. Follow Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. 14:40 to handle all things appropriately and with decency.
The following Sabbath, when all objections/questions/edits have been handled, vote the list of new officers. Then go home and get reacquainted with your loved ones, but keep praying that God will bless the church’s ministry and the new leaders as they use their gifts to serve.
Michael Halfhill is lead pastor of the Piedmont Park Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Nom Com Tips for Success
- Use a Spiritual Gifts Assessments.
- Host a Ministries Fair where you set up booths on Sabbath so members can visit with ministry leaders and sign up for what interests them.
- Hand out a Ministry Opportunities sheet with a list of your church’s positions so members can mark which ministries interest them.
- Pastors should meet with ministry leaders during the year to share encouragement.
- Send thank you cards to ministry leaders throughout the year.
- Help new members get plugged in to a ministry that fits their spiritual gifts.
- Plan an event honoring and highlighting members’ ministry.