Straight up, let me say that I believe in a plurality of leadership for the church. It is how God designed it, and when it functions well, it is a beautiful thing. However, having been a pastor, church leader, board member, and consultant to church boards for over 30 years, I know they can be deeply frustrating. Most of that frustration is self-imposed in that we don't pay attention to some fundamental principles that, if followed, would move the experience of many from deeply frustrating to deeply satisfying.
What are those fundamentals?
1. Guard the gate to who gets on the board! Get the wrong people, and you sabotage the board. The most powerful group in the church, bar none, are those who make leadership board selections. Healthy boards always insert themselves into that process to ensure the wrong people don't get on. Three to six years with the wrong individuals is deadly to boards. Be smart in how you choose leaders.
2. Understand your role. Boards are responsible for ensuring that the congregation is taught, protected, led, empowered and, released, cared for and that the spiritual temperature in the congregation is kept high. Many boards don't even have a job description, let alone focus on the right things. A focus on the wrong things hurts the board and the church. My book, High Impact Church Boards can be a help.
3. Spend quality time in prayer together. Most boards don't! They get so caught up in the minutia of details (that someone else could do) that they don't have time to pray, think, study the word together, and seek the counsel of the Lord of the church they serve as undershepherds. When business and administration crowd out prayer, it is a sign that the board is moving in a dangerous direction.
4. Use an agenda and allow the chair to prioritize what is important and what is not. Not all rocks are big rocks. Some are pebbles and sand that someone else should deal with. Leaders deal with big rocks and delegate everything that can and should be delegated. Many leaders serve their "time" and then retire from church boards precisely because they don't focus on what is important, and as leaders, they want to do that.
5. Always operate with a board covenant that spells out how members relate to one another, make decisions, and handle conflict and members' expectations - including how to handle recalcitrant board members. Boards operate without such a covenant at their own risk.
6. Lead boldly and help the congregation become the people God wants them to be. Timid leadership in the church in epidemic! And deeply sad. One of the reasons many congregations have so little spiritual influence beyond the edges of their parking lot goes right back to the timid leadership of their leaders. Remember, we lead on behalf of Jesus.
7. When there are elephants in the room, name them and deal with them honestly and sensitively. Too many church boards ignore the true issues of the church because we don't want to offend anyone. The irony is that we all know they exist and need to be dealt with, so we might as well name them because once named, they are no longer elephants but simply issues to be dealt with.
8. Evaluate how you are doing as a board. Here are 15 simple questions that will tell you a great deal about the health of your board. Have your board spend ten minutes answering the questions, and you will have some fodder for discussion that can help you improve your board, its leadership, and your experience.
Effective boards are a joy to serve on. Ineffective boards are a major frustration. Which one do you have?