Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Committees vs. Councils: The Difference is Important

There is a big difference between decision that need to be made individually and those that are made best by a committee of some sort.  One of the problems I have seen in every organization in which I've been involved throughout my life is distinguishing between those two situations and acting accordingly. 

With that in mind, I want to share the following generality - understanding it is not a universal constant that applies to all situations:

If the Spirit is telling you to do something, he's likely to share that with others involved.

Often one person will receive the initial inspiration, but if others are going to be impacted to a large degree and in important ways, I believe it is critical to allow for those others to receive confirmation of that inspiration prior to implementation of the decision.  This is one of the reasons I like the council model so much for groups. I don't like committee decision making, necessarily, in many instances (although it is important in some instances) - but I like "counciling". There is an important difference. 

Committee decisions require no decision be made until everyone can reach a mutual decision, which means  that the ultimate decision often is a compromise (or is postponed indefinitely) - OK, but not even close to ideal in many situations.  True council decisions require open discussion and active, sincere consideration of all voices and perspectives - but, ultimately, the decision must be reached by the leader of the council and accepted by the group body. Council decisions can and often should be a compromise from the leader's initial thought, and those decisions can be postponed, but this approach allows decisions to be made that do not require consensus in the traditional way.  They require acceptance, and that is not the same thing as pure consensus. 

The key, in my opinion, is that the leader ask and listen PRIOR to sharing his or her initial opinion - which, in practical terms, means that the group body might not know in the end what that initial opinion was.  I believe the Spirit can share aspects of inspiration with individuals that differ in perspective from that which is shared with others, and combining those aspects into one vision / answer / solution can be powerful. 

In the case of spouses, I believe strongly that one spouse should not dictate to the other. After all, those two are supposed to be one - so, theoretically, one half shouldn't be making major decisions for the whole. Thus, I appreciate the change that has been made in the past few years in the way that the global Church leadership has addressed the concept of presiding in the home - focusing on a couple presiding together as equal partners.  In this instance, the best decision-making process is more of the standard committee model, not the council model. 

It's hard for some members to let go of the former paradigm, but it's important to accept that change.


ji said...

A good thought -- it is so easy to bring our Americanized notions of procedure and everything else into our Church settings. Certainly, a church council is not equivalent to a city council committee, or a committee of teachers supervising the school newspaper, or any other notion of committee.

I had only one thought -- I think it is important that the church council leader generally take the lead and share his thoughts, and then invite some honest discussion by all others -- if the council leader has an opinion or notion or inspiration, as a general rule he should share that with other council members as part of asking for their thoughts. This is an intellectually honest approach and sets the stage for honest discussion. If he does not do this, then a possible outcome is that other council members will try to guess what the leader is already thinking, a that is not a step towards honest discussion. Each council member needs to be open and honest, and that starts with the council leader.

Paul said...

ji, I agree with you only if the presidding member of the council comes with inspiration in hand. if he is really seeking input, he should speak last, because what he says will sway the rest of the dicussion. The larger the council is, the less likely someone will contradict the presiding officer in open discussion, even if he asks for it.

Papa D said...

A lot of this has come through my decades involved in management and church service, but it was influenced heavily by a church-wide training session in November 2010 (if I remember correctly). In that meeting, I think it was Elder Bednar or Elder Holland who pointed out, with a smile on his face, that many council members won't express their full feelings if a Bishop shares his individual opinion first. He even said, "Duh!" - and that made an impression on me as I watched the training.

Howard said...

This is an important distinction and a great process thanks for posting it!