- Boards are at their (absolute) worst when self-willed people are fighting to get their own way. James put it bluntly when he said
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:1-2 (NIV)
When a disagreement (which is acceptable) becomes a contentious, angry argument (not so acceptable) it’s time to stop in our tracks, pray like crazy and then talk it through to whatever length necessary until unity is restored. An invaluable aid is the board member who voluntarily and spontaneously serves as a mediator between the warring parties.
- Boards are at their worst when arrogance and self-sufficiency cause us to ignore the counsel of denominational/associational leaders (or consultants). Our outside-the-church leaders are gifts from God to those of us serving in the trenches of the local church.
If they act like experts, it’s usually because they are experts. It’s their job. They see the big picture every day. They see the forest, not just the trees. They can see where your church is going to land if “option A” is chosen over “option B.”
The homeowner who wants to remodel his house while despising the wisdom of a contractor is a fool. So is the patient who ignores the counsel of medical professionals or the automobile owner who ignores the advice of the experienced mechanic. We all know this.
And yet, time and time again, in my role as a redevelopment transitional pastor, I’ve served churches which have gotten themselves into huge messes because the board members refused to listen to outside counsel. Even after admitting their error, they sometimes continue to refuse to listen to those who could and should help them!
- Boards are at their worst when pastors are second-guessed as a knee jerk reaction. I know that pastors can be immature, inexperienced, self-willed, foolish and vain. I have plenty of experience at all of these behaviors.
I also know that some church board members have seen impetuous, trend-following pastors come and go, wreaking havoc with their new ideas and glossy three-ring binders. I understand why some of you are so good at rolling your eyes; you’ve had so much practice.
But it remains true that boards need to be led by someone and that someone should usually be the full-time pastor. He’s gone to school for this. He reads about it all the time. He thinks and prays about the church constantly.
Whether it’s fair or not, he is held responsible by the congregation for everything from the parking lot to the nursery to the youth group to the misspelled words in the bulletin.
If the church does well, he will probably get more credit than he deserves. I’m sure this can be irritating. But if the church does poorly, he will also probably garner more blame than he deserves. If he’s never given the chance to actually lead, he doesn’t have a chance. He’s doomed before he has started.
So I’m asking board members to give the pastor a break, and the benefit of the doubt, and a chance to “work his program.” Don’t be a heart-breaking, nay saying board. Don’t be a board at its worst.