There is no more important decision a church makes than who will serve on their senior leadership board. It is even more important than the pastor they hire because even the best pastor often cannot lead if saddled with a poor board and a poor process for choosing church leaders. In fact, the most powerful group in the church is those who choose new leaders.
I have blogged frequently on church boards because as the board goes – so goes the church and it can either be beautiful or ugly. The fact that the vast majority of churches in the United States are plateaued or in decline would indicate that there is a crisis in church leadership. Intentionality in how you choose your leaders can be a game changer for your congregation. I have several suggestions.
First, your nominating committee should be made up of the best leadership voices of the church which should include your senior pastor (he has to work with the chosen leaders) and key current board members (they know what is needed on the board). If representatives from the congregation at large are part of your equation, be sure that they understand the nature of leadership. The fact that they love Jesus does not qualify them to choose good leaders.
Second, be sure that those you choose have leadership ability. There is a fiction that the only qualification for leaders is that they are Godly individuals. That could not be further from the truth. Yes, they must be Godly but they must also be able to lead – the purpose of overseers, elders and leaders in the New Testament. Elsewhere I have shared eleven qualities that must be present at some level for leaders to lead well in the church.
Third, make sure that you have a leadership covenant that spells out how your board works together and that potential leaders understand and are willing to sign that covenant before you place them on a ballot. Every board is one member away from moving from healthy to dysfunctional. It is foolish not to guard the health of the board with rules of engagement.
Fourth, ensure that those you are considering are in alignment with the philosophy and direction of the church. Again, this is about guarding the health of the board and the church. This requires some significant discussion. One best practice is to have potential new leaders sit on the board for a year as potential leaders (without a vote) which gives them and you the ability to decide if this is a good fit. Such a practice also sends a message that this is an important decision and responsibility.
Fifth, eliminate competitive ballots. Your best leaders won’t agree to be on a competitive ballot and it sends a message that you don’t know what you are looking for but hope the congregation will make the right choice. Choose the right leaders and ask the congregation to vote yes or no but don’t make it competitive.
This is about guarding the gate of leadership. More importantly it is about crafting a leadership group that will keep the spiritual, missional and leadership ethos of the church at a high level and maximize the ministry opportunity of the congregation.