This week I met with my Mutual Ministry Committee or MMC for short. For those of you who are not aware, the MMC serves as a kind of support and accountability group for the bishop, or in a parish for a pastor. When the right people are gathered around the table, it can be a very helpful group. But, if you’ve got the wrong people, well, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
I must admit, I was a little reluctant to form this MMC for myself, but was told that it’s in the Synod Constitution, so I had to do it. Why was I reluctant? My first parish in Brooklyn had an MMC, and it was just plain awful. I inherited a group that had been formed during the interim, and they had one agenda, which was to evaluate me on a monthly basis. They were mean spirited. I finally ended it after 9 miserable months, and never formed another one.
Now, as bishop I get to choose the people who are a part of my MMC, and the group met for the first time this past week. We spent much of our time outlining the parameters and refining a covenant that included mutual honesty as well as confidentiality. Our conversation focused on my visits to all of the congregations, as well as my use of this blog and facebook and twitter to communicate about those visits. I also had a chance to rant a bit. The group asked good questions and encouraged me to attend to my body and soul for well being and the long haul.
I can see how a quality MMC could be very helpful to a pastor. It strikes me that a couple key ingredients are needed: 1) The pastor must have the freedom to select the members. 2) A clear and honest covenant must be established, and probably signed by everyone on the MMC. 3) I would suggest that consideration be made to include a few people on the MMC who are not members of the congregation being served, and that the total number of people in the group not exceed 5, plus the pastor.
I also believe there are a few tasks that should NOT be in the MMC task list. 1) Evaluation of the pastor 2) Salary and/or compensation recommendations 3) Nor should the names of the MMC be known in the congregation, because people tend to come to the members with complaints. The problem with what I’ve just written is that it is 180 degrees counter to what is in many of our congregation’s constitutions. Sorry, I think the structure that we have put in place in our constitutions for MMC’s is wrong. It tends to encourage congregations to think of the MMC as the HR department. And yes, I’ll be advocating for this change in the ELCA model constitution at our next conference of bishops gathering.
I’d suggest that a different group, perhaps the Executive Committee of the council serve as the evaluation and salary committee. But, even then, the evaluation should not be of just the pastor or rostered leader. It should be of the whole ministry. After all, most ministry is 50% clergy leadership and 50% lay leadership. We are in this together. It’s called the body of Christ building the kingdom of God. Let’s open our hearts and minds to the spirit to act through us together.
The MMC, with the right people, can be a positive avenue for our leaders to receive support, prayer and the sometimes needed gentle nudge. Mine is off to a good start, as we are building trust and confidence in one another, and allowing God's Spirit to guide and bring wisdom to the forefront.