04.1 - Staff-Parish Relations Committee

by Scott Selman

…tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it…
1 Peter 5:2 (NRSV)

One of the most challenging opportunities for service in the local church is the staff-parish relations committee (sometimes referred to as the pastor-parish relations committee).  Why is this?  Service on this important committee is challenging because it requires each member to listen to God, consider multiple interests, and maintain a critical balance between our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ and our human tendencies to resist change and avoid conflict.

The staff-parish relations committee (SPRC) is required by ¶244 in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church and is a basic part of the organizational structure of the local church.  As noted in the Pastor-Parish Relations booklet by Betsey Heavner included in Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, the SPRC is the local church administrative unit in which lay and clergy spiritual leaders integrate the staff and congregational interests to focus on the mission and vision of the local church.

The SPRC shall have no less than five persons or more than nine persons, including at least one young adult, the lay leader, and a lay member of the annual conference.  Members of the committee should represent various groups in the local church, addressing the needs of the church and its staff through discernment. Staff persons or immediate family members of a pastor or staff person may not serve on the committee.

The staff-parish relations committee is required to meet at least quarterly, and may not meet without the knowledge of the pastor or the district superintendent. The committee’s relationship to the district superintendent and the bishop is advisory. The work of the SPRC should be considered confidential, including all discussions and actions taken.

Some of the general responsibilities of the staff-parish relations committee include:

  • Confer with the pastor(s) and staff on matters related to effective ministry, congregational relationships, and interpreting the nature and function of the ministry.

  • Confer with the pastor(s) and staff on matters related to priorities in the use of gifts, skills, and time, and priorities for the demands and effectiveness of the mission and ministry of the congregation.

  • Communicate and interpret to the congregation the nature and function of ministry in The United Methodist Church regarding open itinerancy, preparation for ordained ministry, and the denomination’s Ministerial Education Fund.

  • Identify and recommend lay preachers and candidates for ordained ministry and missionary service.

  • Educate the church community concerning the value of diversity in the selection of clergy and lay staff.

Other responsibilities related to personnel matters include:

  • Develop and maintain written job descriptions and titles for associate pastors and other staff members.

  • Provide an annual evaluation for the use of the pastor(s) and staff in an ongoing, effective ministry and for identifying continuing education needs and plans.

  • Confer with the pastor(s) if it is evident that the best interests of the charge and pastor(s) will be served by a change in pastor(s), and cooperate with the pastor(s), the district superintendent, and the bishop in securing clergy leadership.

  • Conduct an annual review of salary and non-salary support for clergy and lay staff.  Recommend adjustments in compensation to the finance committee.

  • In consultation with the pastor, recommend to the church council all staff positions needed to carry out the ministry and work of the church.

  • In consultation with the pastor, recommend to the church council written policies and procedures for hiring, contracting, evaluating, promoting, retiring, and dismissing staff personnel who are not subject to episcopal appointment.

  • Consult with the pastor and staff about continuing education and spiritual renewal.

The Book of Discipline requires members of the staff-parish relations committee to be knowledgeable about personnel matters in relation to church policies, professional standards, liability issues, and civil law.  Human resources available to the SPRC may include the district superintendent, the Conference Treasurer’s office, and persons in the community who are trained in the areas of communication, conflict resolution, employee benefits, and social issues.

Some churches have established a personnel committee in addition to the staff-parish relations committee.  Personnel committees are amenable to the SPRC and include such members of the SPRC and other persons as designated by the charge conference. Personnel committees usually develop local church personnel policies, including guidelines for compensation.

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