Adding a new member to your board is an opportunity to strengthen the governance to your organization. In many instances, however, it does the opposite because the new member has not been vetted well and they bring their own agendas to the board. This is especially true with church boards.
Here are specific questions you want answers to before you bring a new member on your board.
1. Does the prospective board member meet the Biblical qualifications?
While this may seem obvious, it is not! We overlook issues such as divisiveness, ego, lack of humility and even Biblical knowledge, especially when they are people of influence or wealth. Your board documents ought to specify the Biblical qualifications and any board that does not honestly evaluate a candidate against those qualifications is generally in for trouble down the road.
2. What do you need on the board at this time to strengthen it?
A board full of type A personalities may well need someone who is more mercy oriented. Alternatively a board of nice Godly people who don't have strategic gifts may well need board members who think strategically.
There have been too many instances in recent days of board members who have allowed ego driven pastors to do things that have caused shipwreck to the church because they did not have the courage or ability to speak truth and hold others accountable. In many of these cases the senior leader has stacked the board with individuals who will do their bidding rather than serve in a governance role in protecting the church.
3. Is the individual thoughtful and discerning?
Thoughtful individuals may not speak a lot but when they do, they often speak from a place of wisdom and discernment. Thoughtful and discerning individuals see below the surface, can identify the real issues at hand, and take a wholistic view of the ministry. They think before they speak, are able to identify key issues and contribute well to healthy solutions. They also ask the hardest questions which causes the board to think at a deeper level.
4. Do they understand how your board works and the ministry philosophy of the church. Are they in sync with that ministry philosophy? This question assumes that the board has done the hard work of determining the rules of engagement for the board, has a defined way that the board does its work and has that information in writing. The same needs to be true of the ministry philosophy of the church. Where these documents don't exist or are not known by board members chaos and conflict will inevitably take place.
I have seen boards add people to the board who "represent rival philosophies within a church" so all voices are represented. This is foolish thinking as the board will not be able to work in a unified way. If a prospective board member does not agree with the rules of engagement for your board or are not in sync with the ministry philosophy of the church they will hurt you rather than help you.
5. Have they displayed any tendencies toward a critical spirit or divisiveness in their past?
Past performance is a pretty good indicator of future attitudes or actions. Critical spirits and attitudes will hurt your board while gracious individuals will help you - even when they are asking the hard questions. Those who have any history or being divisive may well do the same on the board which will hurt you badly while those who can unify will help your board.
6. Are they team players who will wrestle well with issues and humbly submit to decisions of the majority?
Board members who are not team players and who will not submit to the decision of the majority end up holding the board hostage. These are signs that their personal agenda supersedes the united agenda of the board which will divide the board, stall its work, create unnecessary conflict which then needs to be resolved and hinder the work of the group.
7. Are they financially vested in your ministry at a reasonable level?
Yes, before you bring an individual on the board be sure that they are generous with the church personally. Those who are not financially committed are out of sync with God's mandate of generosity and will likely turn out to be critical board members. No one who is not personally generous should serve in church leadership where they are to model a lifestyle that pleases the Lord of the Church. Ignore this at your own peril.
8. Will they abide by your board covenant that spells out how you interact with one another?
Any board that operates without a board covenant does so at its own peril. Further, if you do you have no objective standards by which to judge the behavior of any board member. You want to know that the new board member understands the expectations of board behavior and agrees to it fully. If you don't have such a covenant, I strongly advise you to develop one today.
9. Do you have any reservations about their being added to the board?
If you do, don't put them on the board until those reservations have been satisfied. Too often we overlook concerns in the name of optimism that all will be well. That is foolish and unwise. If you have reservations you may want to talk with the individual and honestly share your reservations. Only when you are satisfied with their answers should you put them on the board.
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