“Let them [God’s children] exalt Him in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the council of the elders.” Psalm 107:32
I don’t know that anyone has ever described a church board meeting as being “fun,” but I can testify that I’ve participated in some which have been deeply satisfying, God-blessed, Spirit-anointed experiences.
It really can happen, and I’ll close this post by mentioning the two people who have the power to shape “dead wood” boards into God-empowered leadership teams.
Last week I described five characteristics of the best boards I’ve seen. The board at its best is:
(1) A learning community (truth seekers)
(2) A team of truth speakers
(3) Characterized by humility and meekness
(4) Dedicated to hiring the right kind of executive leader
(5) Devoted to the health and well-being of the organization
For the details, check out The Board At Its Best.
Here are a few more characteristics of the board at its best and, again, I insist, this is achievable with the help of God and some intentional human leadership:
(6) Committed to coaching the executive leader at every meeting. I’m not talking about the high-volume, “in your face” coaching you find on the sidelines of the football game. Non-directive, encouraging coaching is easily adapted to the boardroom by simply asking the leader a few good questions that most leaders love to hear, like:
“How are you doing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?”
“What have you done this month that has been really satisfying?”
“What have you done this month that has been really frustrating?”
“How are you doing with the annual goals you set for yourself?”
“How can we help you or pray for you?”
Simple questions such as these will encourage (put courage in), focus and redirect your executive leader, while providing just a tad of needed accountability. For more on the non-directive coaching of a leader, see the article Church Boards: Coach Your Pastor!
(7) Committed to doing a fair performance review of the executive leader every year. A “fair” performance review contains no surprises. It references the leader’s job description as well as the annual goals which he set for himself – which the board has already been asking about all year long. It most certainly does not include unwritten expectations of which the leader had no knowledge, i.e., “good pastors go to the hospital every day.”
I never cease to be amazed at how many dissatisfied church boards have no job description for their senior pastor and perform no performance reviews of him either. No pastor who is given regular coaching and honest performance reviews will ever need to be surprised by a request to resign. A conscientious leader – who is regularly hearing the truth from his friends – will make a needed resignation his idea before it becomes the board’s idea.
A fair performance review is based on accurate information. Staff members who report to the executive leader should be consulted for their perspective, especially if their work is done “off-site” – as in a parachurch ministry – where their interactions with the executive leader are seldom seen by the board. How can the board know how the leader is doing at coaching his staff members without asking them?
And BTW, Pastor Larry Osborne’s great advice for pastors was: if you want a good and fair performance review format, design it yourself.
(8) Brave enough to join the executive leader in making important, bold, decisions and proposals. Not every board member has to have the leadership chutzpa of a Teddy Roosevelt or a Napoleon Bonaparte. But every board member – especially those who serve as church elders – must have enough leadership “genes” to participate in some bold, brave, important decisions, like:
- Starting an important new ministry
- Tearing down the dilapidated, near-sacred building
- Moving the piano across the platform a little faster than one inch per week
- Disciplining the church bully
- Removing the ill-fitting staff member
Bear with me as I repeat a few words from last week. The two key individuals who can work with God in creating the board at its best are:
- The board chair. It’s not the board chairperson’s job to lead the organization/ministry, but it is this individual’s job to lead and manage the Great board chairs work closely with their executive leaders to create extraordinary boards.
- The executive leader. In most Christian organizations, the only person who has the knowledge, skill and opportunity to train a great board chairman is the executive leader (the senior or solo pastor if we’re discussing a church).
Leaders who are dissatisfied with their current board and board chair need to put some serious prayer and effort into correcting the situation. In most cases, this effort is richly rewarded. Blessed is the leader who enjoys a “tight” relationship with the board chair, with whom he shares breakfast a few days in advance of every board meeting.