Serving on a board, church or otherwise, requires a special intellectual capacity or ability. This is not about education - many educated people have limited intellectual capacity and many who lack higher education have it.
It is the ability to think conceptually, to visualize what could be rather than simply what is, to be able to focus on the big picture and concepts rather than on the small picture and details and enough personal flexibility to be open to new ideas, and work constructively with other board members. It is also the ability to trust staff to do what they must do and to always be pushing forward the missional agenda of the church or organization. It includes the ability to problem solve in creative ways rather than simply to fall back on what they have seen before in another church and organization.
Not everyone can do that and too often we bring well meaning, even Godly individuals onto our boards who actually hinder ministry progress by their narrow views, inability to think conceptually and who believe that board work is guarding the status quo and controlling staff. Those who have worked on boards with people who do not have the intellectual skills enumerated above know how frustrating that can be.
So in choosing effective board members it is helpful to ask the kinds of questions below:
- Do they think big picture or small picture? (think big)
- Can they engage the future of the organization or simply deal with status quo? (think future)
- Do they exhibit personal flexibility or are they inflexible in their thinking? (think flexibly)
- When problem solving do they see all the pieces or just some of the pieces? (think all)
- Do they like to micromanage or empower? (think empowerment)
- Can they trust staff or do they need to know everything before staff can act? (think trust)
- Do they work synergistically with others or need things their way? (think synergistically)
- Do they think missionally or like to deal with inconsequential issues? (think missionally)
- Are they articulate and thoughtful or confusing and quick to make judgements? (think articulate and thoughtful)
Intellectual capacity matters in any church or organization that wants to go anywhere and which is governed by a board. Again, it is not about education level. It is about the ability to think well and understand the big picture of the organization - in order to help it get there.
Think about the board members you know who do that well and those who lack the skill. There is the difference!