It is an interesting thing that church boards are quick to evaluate what is happening in the ministry of the church, their pastor and staff but slow to evaluate themselves. This lack of self evaluation is ironic given the expectation of a healthy staff while they do not apply the same expectations to themselves. I am speaking of how the board deals with one another, the issues they face, the intentionality of their leadership and their own effectiveness.
Some of the dysfunctions of church board internal dynamics include:
- An inability to deal with known issues in the church because raising the issues would cause controversy. Thus elephants are allowed to linger on the board, sometimes for years.
- In the interests of "harmony" board members are unable to candidly evaluate their senior leader or other issues in the church.
- Board members have distinct skill sets but are often unwilling or unable to tell a board member that they are "out of their lane" of effectiveness.
- A lack of periodic discussions as to the overall effectiveness of the board and the contribution that each board member is or is not making.
- Ineffective conflict resolution and unresolved tensions.
- Board members who take disagreement personally and allow their ego to become bruised.
- An unwillingness to submit to the will of the board as a whole.
- A lack of candid, truthful but loving dialogue with one another.
- Passivity toward ministry issues.
- An inability to speak the last 10%.
- Not fully resolving issues because of an avoidance of conflict.
- Avoidance of learning and growing as a board and in their leadership assignment.
Two: Do not gloss over relational difficulties on the board. Usually where these exist, no-one wants to take the risk of speaking about it. It is often the elephant in the room: We know it exists but don't talk about it. That is a mistake because if a church board cannot biblically resolve conflict one cannot expect the congregation to do so. The health of the board does spill over into the congregation as a whole.
Three: Understand that ego is the enemy to healthy boards. Ego pushes us to want to get our way, to put down others or their ideas, to be slow to resolve conflict (I am right after all) and often those with ego issues work the back room with politics to achieve their goals. Jesus blesses humility but hates pride. Many relational issues are related to pride.
Four: The better the board, the better their work. Ongoing continuing education in how a healthy board functions is just as important as it is for the staff of the church. Often boards don't do their ongoing learning but the best boards do so on a regular basis.
Five: Learn to evaluate issues in the church honestly. One of the barriers to honest evaluation is that board members don't want to speak ill of anyone. There is a difference, however between speaking ill of a person and honestly evaluating their performance. When we are not honest about what is truly happening, boards do a disservice to the church that they are responsible for leading. Allowing issues to exist without honest discussion contributes to elephants in the room and elephants always hurt a board and a church.
- Did members listen well?
- Was their disagreement (a good sign)
- Was everyone able to share their views honestly?
- Did we make decisions?
- Did we follow the agenda well?
- What did we discuss that we left unresolved?
- Did everyone come prepared?
- Did we start and end on time?
- Did we allow the Holy Spirit room to interrupt us at any point?
Healthy boards do not just happen. They are crafted through hard work, good relationships, honest dialogue, egos that are checked at the door and intentional leadership.