church council meetings

Church council meetings.  Love them?  Hate them?  Dread them?

Be a Better Church Council Member

One of the ways to have a better church council meeting is to be a better member of the church council and to help the rest of the members to be better council members.

Most governing board meetings actually spend a little time educating members on their duties and responsibilities.

When is the last time you spent time in a council meeting going over the members’ responsibilities?

It may be that church members are so familiar with the idea of a church council they may think they know what their jobs are.

What often happens is that people have a vague idea of what they are supposed to do.  They understand they are supposed to take care of the church.

But without some structure and guidelines that can lead to focusing on what needs to be fixed, looking for what’s wrong which leads to negativity that can suck the energy out of a meeting.

Other times council members may think their main responsibility is managing the pastor.  This can lead to an adversarial relationship with the pastor that leads to unpleasant meetings.

Remember your Mission

I believe these pitfalls can be avoided by doing what most governing boards of non-profits do – spend a little time each meeting reminding ourselves what our task is.

If you follow the ELCA Model Constitution, you actually have material for that.  The council’s responsibilities are listed under c.12.04. Here are just a few that would be helpful to review even as a devotion:

The duties of the Congregation Council shall include the following:

To lead this congregation in stating its mission, to do long-range planning, to set goals and priorities, and to evaluate its activities in light of its mission and goals.


  • State your mission:  Do you have a mission statement? Have you looked at it lately?  Does it need to be updated?  If you have a good updated mission statement, it should be front and center for every council meeting.
  • Set Goals and priorities:  This is done in light of your mission statement.  What are the goals we need to accomplish to move toward our mission?  Your goals and your mission statement will make it easier to set priorities.
  • Evaluate activities in light of mission and goals:  Evaluation, critique and work toward improvement are important.  Your mission and goals will help keep critique focused and avoid the kind of negativity that can bog you down.


Also, in the constitution are goals for each council member to strive toward:


To be examples individually and corporately of the style of life and ministry expected of all baptized persons. To promote a congregational climate of peace and goodwill, and, as differences and conflicts arise, to endeavor to foster mutual understanding.


This could be another topic for council devotions

You could discuss together in a mutually uplifting and supportive way; how can we help one another be examples of good discipleship to the rest of the congregation.  What are some ways we can promote a climate of peace and goodwill?

I believe if congregation council meetings have become bogged down in negativity or just mind numbing detail to too much trivia, a review of the constitution, a good mission statement, and study of scripture can help move a council back to a joy filled sense of mission, which in turn, can lead to renewal in the congregation

Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this very timely blog post.

  2. Thank you. As Scot said this is a timely blog. We are looking to do this with our church council and our church committees. We know this will help. Leo Combs-Lay, Oelwein.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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