Let’s Talk: About a PRC
Does your church have a PRC?
Some of you, I expect, know exactly what I am talking about and some of you are saying, “A what?”
PRC stands for Pastoral Relations Committee. Some churches call it a PPRC or Pastor Parish Relations Committee. Other churches may call it by a different name but the function of the Committee is to offer support to the Pastor and to the Congregation and to their relationship together.
I was reflecting on the importance of this Committee this week and thought I would share my reflections with all of you. For a PRC to be effective, there should be approximately five people who serve on the Committee and these five people should not be officers of the church. In some cases, they are members who do not serve on any other committee of the church. The most effective make-up of a PRC that I recommend is the Pastor, two members of the church chosen by the Pastor, and two members of the church chosen by the congregation with the affirmation of the Pastor.
This last part is important because a PRC is not a support group for the Pastor. It is a place where the congregation knows that their concerns or questions will be heard and addressed. Therefore, knowing that there are people on the Committee chosen by the congregation reminds them that this is a safe and confidential place where they can share. The importance of having all the members affirmed by the Pastor is that the Pastor needs to know that this is a place where he or she can speak freely and address concerns and that she or he will be respected and heard.
I believe strongly in the value of a PRC for at least two important reasons:
1. A PRC provides a place for the Pastor to talk about situations in the church that may be of concern or that the Pastor may be curious about.
2. A PRC offers space to members of the congregation to go to if they have a concern or something they are curious about but are not sure how to share it directly with the Pastor. Instead, they can share it with a trusted member of the Committee who will bring that concern to the group so that it can be addressed.
For a PRC to be the most effective that it can be, it is important for the Committee to be established as soon as possible after a church calls a minister and it is important for the Committee to meet regularly, not just when someone has brought an issue to the Committee.
Why are these two things so important, you might ask? Because everyone knows that when a Pastor is first called to a church, usually, there is a “honeymoon” period. People are celebrating a new relationship and finding hope and promise in the ministry going forward. So, when the
PRC meets from the beginning of this new relationship, there will be few, if any, concerns that are brought up to the Committee so their meeting time can be spent on such topics as helping their new Pastor or Congregation adjust or on the hopes and promises that each person on the Committee sees for this new relationship. Through these early conversations the Pastor can learn more about the church, the church can learn more about the Pastor and trust among the PRC members can be built. As the Committee continues to meet regularly issues will start to surface. Some of them may be issues of concern but some of them may be curiosity about how the church functions or how the Pastor carries out their ministry. These conversations are brought to the table and shared. Often any particular concerns are able to be addressed in a such a way that they don’t grow into something bigger than it needs to be. Again, trust among the Committee members continues to deepen.
At some point in almost any ministry there is a “big” issue that comes up—sometimes more than one. By this time, the Committee is hopefully meeting regularly and the members and Pastor feel a bond of trust with one another so when a major concern is brought before the Committee everyone is ready to be open and honest and find a way forward. In addition, because the Committee is meeting regularly and the members know that (although this is not a Committee that keeps minutes so reporting out will not be on specific issues discussed unless it is needed for some particular reason or to report back to someone who has raised a concern) people will feel more free to approach a member of the Committee with a concern early and not wait until it has been kept secret for a while and now threatens to blow up into something much larger than it would have if it had been talked about in the open all along.
As a side note, just because an issue that is considered “big” is brought to the PRC, it doesn’t mean that this is an issue about the Pastor’s performance. It may be. It also may be an issue about leadership structure or how the Congregation as a whole is functioning or how the church members and Pastor can work better together towards a new vision for the Church. PRC does not focus on “dealing with problems with the Pastor” but focuses on building a healthy relationship between Pastor and Congregation and between different Congregational members.
The two most-often heard “myths” about a PRC is that they are a support group for the minister so there is no reason to raise a concern because the members will “side” with the minister anyway and that there is no reason for the PRC to meet unless/until there is a problem. I hope I have helped our Pastors and lay leaders understand why a PRC is a vital communications and resource and support tool for the Pastor AND the Congregation and creating an effective PRC early in a ministry is a healthy decision for any church. And, please don’t assume that because your minister has been there for many years and you do not have a PRC that it is too late to begin one now. It is never too late.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if we can help your church create a Pastoral Relations Committee.