Mutual Ministry Committee
and the
Driesen Manual

West Virginia - Western Maryland Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Page Contents
  • Order & Rationale
    • Reform of the Synod Mutual Ministry Committee
    • Authority
  • What's Different about Driesen?
    • Is This the Congregation's Super-ego?
    • Isn't This the Council's Job?
  • The Driesen Manual
  • By All Means, Adapt
    • There Are Other Options
  • If You Are in Conflict Now..
  • Workshops and Training
  • What Would Be Helpful?

The Driesen Manual
(PDF download)
Order & Rationale

Synod Assembly 2021, acting upon recommendation of the Committee on the Bishop's Report, ordered that the

Synod Mutual Ministry Committee distribute the Driesen Manual, providing instruction and support, to conference deans so they may instruct pastors and congregational councils in their conference on its use for mutual ministry in their congregations.

Behind the recommendation of the Committee on the Bishop's Report, we find the following paragraph in the Report of the Bishop:

The pandemic is not over, and the consequences of missteps during the pandemic will remain with us for some time. Some of these consequences we can predict; others will percolate to the surface in the months, years to come. In some cases, we will not even recognize the connection. Each congregation and each pastor will have to navigate treacherous waters. A ship may survive the maelstrom only to be wrecked upon the debris lurking beneath the surface. Congregational leadership, lay and clergy, should be advised to keep a sharp lookout. It is tempting but ill-advised to cry, “All’s well!” when the danger is simply no longer apparent. Establishment of mutual ministry committees, but not in the way that has been common among us, may prove helpful. The heretofore dominant models of mutual ministry committees are most likely inadequate for the days ahead. Personnel committee, complaint department, and support group all fall short of a holistic approach. Synod is moving, with its own mutual ministry committee, in a new direction, a direction that focuses upon the health and effectiveness of the ministry as a whole, the pastor being an important player in that ministry but not the sole player. The Synod Mutual Ministry Committee is using the Driesen Manual as the primary informant for its reformation. A mutual ministry committee that functions more as an organ of self-reflection in a congregation may help navigate uncertain seas. Should synod encourage congregations to establish congregational mutual ministry committees with an eye to the health of ministry as a whole and support them in implementation of the same?

Under this order, the Synod Mutual Ministry Committee provides the following as resource and guidance.

†S11.04. The Mutual Ministry Committee shall be appointed by the Executive Committee of the Synod Council to provide support and counsel to the bishop.

Reform of the Synod Mutual Ministry Committee

The Driesen Manual was not selected by fiat. The synod's constitution requires that there be a synod mutual ministry committee (SMMC). Not completely satisfied with its operation, the committee looked around for other models that might prove more useful and salutary. Examining more than a half-dozen MMC handbooks from judicatories in both the ELCA and ELCIC, the Driesen Manual seemed to the SMMC to provide the best way forward for the synod. The Synod Council was ready to move forward with adoption but †S11.04, being a required provision related to SMMC, prevented full restructuring. Synod Council has sought relief, but, while awaiting amendment of the provision by the Churchwide Assembly, those elements of the Driesen Manual that can be employed have been employed—successfully, we believe.

C13.04. Mutual Ministry Committee(s)
(in the absence of a mutual ministry committee, the duties shall be fulfilled by the executive committee) shall be appointed jointly by the president [vice president] and the rostered minister. Term of office shall be two years, with three members to be appointed each successive year.

It should be clarified that the Synod Assembly (SA) cannot mandate that congregations employ the Driesen Manual or even that congregations establish mutual ministry committees (MMCs). It is likely, however, that a congregation is required to have a mutual ministry committee, as the Model Constitution for Congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (2019) includes a non-required provision C13.04 (at right) related to MMCs (and most congregations simply adopt these non-required provisions without paying much attention. As this provision is non-required, any given congregation might something different or might have no provision at all. Additionally, a congregation might have slightly different wording because it is based on an older version of this provision . A congregation must follow its own constitution. If the synod's recommendation seems better to the congregation than what is in its constitution, it should amend the provision accordingly. In any case, what the synod presents here is a recommendation, not a mandate, but it should not be lost that this is indeed an encouragement to use of the Driesen Manual and, by implication, to establish congregational mutual ministry committees.

What's Different about Driesen?

The approach laid out in the Driesen Manual provides a more holistic approach to mutual ministry and focuses upon the ministry even while it pays attention to the moving parts of the ministry. Let's put this in historical context. The origins of MMC can be traced back to the personnel committee. Many congregations, now several decades ago, had personnel committees that focused upon compensation packages, time off, and performance issues. These were, by the 1970s, being replaced by pastor-parish relations committees that had a tendency to devolve into complaint departments. From this emerged MMCs that often talked about mutual ministry but frequently placed the focus on the support of the pastor.

Driesen's contention is that mutual ministry is about the ministry. The focus then is upon the ministry of the congregation. That ministry has some important moving parts, the called clergy being one of them. Other moving parts include the council, committees, volunteers, etc.. At the same time, the ministry can be thought of in terms of various activities, including worship, education, outreach, etc.. This does not ignore the general health and ethos of the ministry, such as community life, mutual affection, conflict, etc..

Summarizing the work of an MMC under one possible adoption of the Driesen approach, we might find a bylaw or continuing resolution written to include as duties:

  • evaluate how effectively the goals of the congregation are being met for both ministry within the congregation and in the community;
  • make recommendations to the Congregation Council, committees, and officers, regarding how congregation goals may be more effectively met and by whom;
  • dialogue about perceptions and concerns within the congregation;
  • monitor the life of the congregation for the early warning signs of misunderstanding that may eventually lead to difficulty;
  • assess conflicts that may affect the congregation's ministry and take appropriate action;
  • serve as a source of support for the pastor, officers, and other staff in times of personal or professional stress;
  • assist congregational leaders in assessing ideas for ministry and the best course for implementation;
  • support the pastor and other staff’s need for spiritual self-care, compensation, family leave, sabbaticals, and continuing education; and
  • serve as the exit interviewer when a pastor or other staff announces his/her departure from the position.

The order is illustrative of a shift to focusing upon ministry while keeping the things that support ministry in mind. A local congregation, however, might construct its list differently, including, adding, deleting, emphasizing, and deemphasizing as seems most useful to itself.

St. Joe's by the Gas Station set, as part of its five-year strategic plan, a goal of increasing ministry to shut-in members. Two years into the five-year strategic plan, MMC identifies that no concrete action has taken place since the pastor resigned the call the previous year. MMC, considering the very part-time arrangement with its interim-pastor, the energy that council is expending on building maintenance issues and maintaining weekly worship, and the reputation of two members as particularly good with and caring for the older parishioners, makes the following report to council:
MMC recommends to council
  • That Miss Evaganeline and Mr. Besucher be formally appointed by Council, in consultation with the interim pastor, as visitors to shut-ins;
  • That the interim pastor ask Pr. Nachbar of Second Lutheran Church (which has a strong lay visitation ministry) to provide training for Miss Evangeline and Mr. Besucher; and
  • That Miss Evangeline and Mr. Besucher be provided home communion kits and travel reimbursement at the IRS volunteer rate.
Is This the Congregational Super-ego?

Is this the congregational super-ego? Only insofar as it can be the congregation's self-critical organ/faculty. It has no power to actually compel; that is reserved for council. It does have power to advise. Its advice always comes from its critical and on-going analysis of the congregation's ministry. A key part of this analysis is the question: Is the congregation effectively meeting its ministry goals (whatever those goals happen to be)? Those goals are not defined by the MMC. They are defined by the Congregation Meeting (or the Congregation Council).

Too often, a congregation sets goals but never actually measures to see if it is meeting those goals. It often rarely asks what might need to be done in order to meet those goals. MMC is dedicated to that work, and having that work as its dedicated duty, is less likely to get distracted by details related to repairing the lawn mower. MMC does dig into some specific matters but only as they relate to the ministry as a whole.

Isn't This Council's Job?

Some might say, "Well, isn't this all council's job?" In an ideal world, it should be, but experience has shown that most councils are so preoccupied with the physical and fiscal temporalities of the congregation (e.g., paying the bills, fixing the roof, managing outside use of the building, etc.) that they rarely have time to think about the ministry as a whole. If a congregation council is disciplined in its use of time, intentionally reserving time for the work mentioned above, a separate committee might not be needed. If this is the case, then the Driesen Manual may still be valuable in assisting such a council (or executive committee).

The Driesen Manual
Download Here

The Driesen Manual

The Driesen Manual, properly titled, Mutual Ministry Handbook: Guidance for Healthy Congregations, was written by then Bishop of the Upper Susquehanna Synod, Robert Driesen. It is provided as a PDF download. You will find in the Dreisen Manual the following:

  • Mutual Ministry
    • Robert DriesenA Theological Understanding of Ministry
    • What is Mutual Ministry?
    • A Congregational Mutual Ministry Committee
    • Pit-falls to Avoid
    • What a Mutual Ministry Committee Could Do
    • When should a Mutual Ministry Committee be formed?
    • A New Committee or the Old Committee?
    • When is a Mutual Ministry Committee Disbanded?
    • What about Multiple Church Parishes or Partners?
    • What about Congregations with Multiple Staff Members?
    • To whom is the Mutual Ministry Committee Accountable?
    • How Can We Get Started?
    • Possible Agenda Items for a Mutual Ministry Committee
  • Evaluating Our Mutual Ministry
    • An Overview
    • Introduction
    • Some Clarifications Before a Mutual Ministry Committee Begins an Evaluation
    • Benefits of Evaluating Mutual Ministry
    • Models for Evaluating Ministry
      • Model A: Evaluating Ministry Utilizing an Anniversary
      • Model B: Reflections on the Expectations for a Pastor and Congregation Council
      • Model C: Reflections and Directions for Continuing Education of Pastors and Other Rostered Leaders within the ELCA
      • Model D: Appraising Leadership
  • Appendices:
    • Assessment tools
    • Templates
    • Background information

By All Means, Adapt

The SMMC encourages congregations to adapt to their local circumstances. The Driesen Manual is a resource, not a law inscribed upon lead with an iron tool. Study the Driesen Manual and make thoughtful decisions about what you might want to embrace and what you might want to skip.

And There Are Other Options

There are plenty of resources out there for mutual ministry work. The Synod Assembly recommends the use of the Driesen Manual, but your congregation is free to search out other resources and appropriate them as you see fit.

If You Are in Conflict Now...

If you are currently enmeshed in conflict, it might not be the right time to form an MMC. You might want to consult with the bishop, D.E.M., or conference dean before tying to set up an MMC in the midst of significant conflict.

Workshops and Training

If your congregation is interested in having a workshop or other training in mutual ministry committee work, contact the bishop. The possibility of a training session for clergy and another for lay leaders is being considered, but, to be honest, if you press for it, it is more likely to happen sooner rather than later.

What Would Be Helpful?

If there are things that you and your congregation would find helpful in understanding and employing the Driesen Manual, contact the bishop.

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West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Stee, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +

Last update: 6 July 2022