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 along with good common sense.
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 entrust staff to do what they must do and to always be pushing 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 or organization.
Not everyone can do that and too often we bring well meaning, even Godly individuals onto our boards who actually hinder 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.
Among other considerations you may have in choosing board members it is helpful to ask the following kinds of questions:
- Do they think big picture of small picture (You want them to think big picture)
- Can they engage the future of the organization or simply deal with status quo? (You want them to think future)
- Do they exhibit personal flexibility or are they inflexible in their thinking? (You want them to be flexible)
- When problem solving do they see all the pieces or just some of the pieces? (You want them to think of all the pieces)
- Do they like to micromanage or empower? (You want them to empower)
- Can they trust staff or do they need to know everything before staff can act? (You want them to trust)
- Do they work synergistically with others or do they need things their way? (You want them to work synergistically)
- Do they think missionally or like to deal with inconsequential issues? (You want them to think missionally)
- Are they articulate and thoughtful or confusing and quick to make judgements? (You want them to be articulate and thoughtful)
- Do they exhibit personal humility or are they proud and overbearing? (You want them to exhibit humility)
- Do they have all the answers or are they open to discussion and flexible in the solution? (You want them to be open and flexible)
- Are they able to negotiate conflict or are they black and white and tend to see winners and losers. (You want them to be able to negotiate conflict well)
- Are they generally positive or negative in their outlook on life? (You want positive people who believe good things can happen.
These are matters of EQ and intellectual capacity and they directly impact the health and effectiveness of a board and therefor the organization the board serves. Again, it is not about educational level. It is about the ability to think well and understand the big picture of the organization - in order to help it move forward. Think about the board members you know who do this well and those who lack these skills. There is a difference! The quality of your leadership is only as good as the leaders you choose.