The real work of the parish is led by the vestry but actuated by the members of the committees, currently: Outreach, Buildings & Grounds, Fellowship, Communications and Finance. Those standing committees meet monthly, plan events, oversee activities of the parish, and engage with me and the vestry throughout the year in the actual work of the parish.
Those committees are re-formed each year at the vestry retreat and even though the names of the committees might remain the same, the goals and objectives of each committee are changed by the vestry as a whole. On the vestry retreat, the entire vestry takes a look at the parish and its needs and also assesses how each committee might contribute to the overall health of our community.
It is only after the goals and objectives are formulated that vestry members rank their preference for committee work. The wardens and I take the preferences of the members and construct a leadership chart for the coming year. That enables people who may have changing interests and passions to lead new committees.
In that same way, membership on the committees is not static. The new or existing chairs of the committee take the new goals and objectives of the committee and decide who might be best able to help them achieve those goals. Once each committee has compiled a "wish" list for its leadership, the vestry has a draft with each committee picking its membership. If one person is chosen by Committee A, the Committee B cannot invite them to join.
This system does a few things. Most importantly, it keeps committees from being static either in membership, leadership, or goals. It offers an annual opportunity to welcome new members, to reassess its purpose, and to rethink such basic questions as when it meets. This enables a regular time for new members to join a committee and also offers long-time members an opportunity to become engaged more deeply in an area of the church in which they may have less expertise. Sometimes it is the newest member of the committee that asks the questions that needs to be asked, or offers the perspective that unlocks a new way of resolving a long-standing issue.
It is my hope and expectation that each committee will try to hold on to valuable leaders from the previous year's work. Each year there are those members whose passion, expertise, or professional contacts make them an indispensable member of a committee. But sometimes, it is that very passion, organizational skill, or artistic ability that makes them attractive to another committee!
If you are asked to become a member of a new committee, please treat that invitation as an affirmation of your gifts by a new group. Give serious thought to finding out what this committee's purpose is and ask the chair why you were invited to join. It may be that your gift of communication, your passion to serve those less fortunate, or your care for children may be the very reason that you were chosen for a new committee. Give it a try: It is, after all, only for a year!
Thinking of committee memberships as transitional responsibilities is, I grant you, a new way of looking at our responsibilities in the church. I believe, though, that it reinforces the strength of our community by providing increasing opportunities to share in the work of Christ Church.