Allan Oliver writes from Silver Spring, Maryland.

The church believes strongly in the committee system. This is so not just because of our theology. The Bible says a church is like a human body. Each part is importamt. the body operates on the basis of group participation.

Christians are to love and trust each other. If we do, it will be proven by our respect for each other's judgment and point of view. We take the Bible seriously when it says, "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Prov. 11:14, KJV). All of us together are bound to be wiser than any one of us alone.

Ellen White agrees: "In counseling for the advancement of the work, no one man is to be a controlling power, a voice for the whole. Proposed methods and plans are to be carefully considered so that all the brethren may weigh their relative merits and decide which should be followed" ( Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 259).


Christians spend much time in meetings, so committees do more that just make decisions. Committees also exist to grow and to show the fruit of the Spirit. Committees take up a lot of our best energy. Here are some time and energy saving suggestions:

1. Don't chair too many committees.

Committees may run the church, but that doesn't mean that you as elder must run every committee. You, or any elder designate, should presumably be an ex officio member of every committee. Sometimes you need to attend to show your interest in and support of the group. When especially significant items are considered, committee chairpersons appreciate your support. On the other hand, an elder's perpetual presence can be at times intimidating. As elder you have a right to chair the church board once while in consultation with the pastor, and probably should. Sometimes, depending on your availability, personality, leadership style, and local available leadership you may wish to delegate this to an another church elder.

2. Eliminate the trivial.

Make decisions at the lowest level possible. For example, don't take to a business meeting items that can be settled by the church board. Don't take to the board items that can be settled by the Sabbath school council. And don't take to the Sabbath school council items that can be settled by the Sabbath school superintendent. This not only saves time, but improves committee attendance when committee members know that only significant items will be considered.

On the other hand, don't handle at lower levels the most significant items that affect the whole congregation. The business meeting, not the church board, is the highest authority in the congregation.

Combine a simple supper with your business meeting to increase attendance, and make it a time of fellowship for the entire church.

3. Double up.

Hold committee meetings before or after other services such as prayer meeting. Have several committees going on at once, perhaps starting at different times. This way you may be able to spend some time with each committee.

4. Evaluate annually.

Review the work of each committee every year. Is a particular committee necessary? Are the right personnel on it? A good rule of thumb is that one third of a committee's membership should be new each year. Is the committee sizeefficient? Research indicates that committees should not be larger than six to 12 members. When committees become large, members feel less obligated to attend and are less likely to speak if they do attend. In such situations the more aggressive members tend to take control. Does each committee have properly defined terms of reference, its areas of concern, its authority to act or recommend for approval by another body?

Allan Oliver writes from Silver Spring, Maryland.