West Virginia - Western Maryland Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Synod Assembly 2021, acting upon recommendation of the
Committee on the Bishop's Report, ordered that the
Behind the recommendation of the Committee on the
Bishop's Report, we find the following paragraph in the
Report of the Bishop:
Under this order, the Synod Mutual Ministry Committee
provides the following as resource and guidance.
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.
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:
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
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, 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:
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
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
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 + Porter@WV-WMD.org
Last update: 6 July 2022