LESSON 22 OF 40 – Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand
Church boards have a natural gravitational pull toward issues that should be reserved for the church staff.
THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 22, the authors describe a gallon jar filled with big rocks, small pebbles, and sand. To lead effectively, church boards must laser-focus on “big rocks”—the major issues impacting their church’s future—not day-to-day ministry minutiae that should be delegated to staff. A pebbles and sand approach in the boardroom will frustrate leaders and inevitably limit a church’s growth.
MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 22, pages 117-122:
• “Many smaller churches fail to grow because their boards are populated with pebble-pickers!”
• “Pebbles and sand are the church operational issues, staff supervision, specific ministry plans or strategies, and details of church life that other people should handle. Follow the basic rule of delegating everything possible to the church staff.”
• “The board chair…and senior pastor must build into the board’s DNA a stewardship conviction that big rocks are their focus. If not done with intentionality, minor issues will inevitably tempt board members to build sand castles—not Kingdom structures.”
We’ve all been in “those” meetings—you know, the ones that got hopelessly lost in the weeds of ministry minutiae like: debating dates for the Christmas program…the logistics of a missions trip…or critiquing the new youth outreach.
Precious time is lost—and energy squandered!—when board members succumb to the temptation to dabble in the “pebbles and sand” that are best handled by church staff.
In contrast, high-performance boards are laser-focused on addressing the “big rocks”—the major issues driving the church’s mission, generating ministry momentum, and forging the church’s future.
What are “big rock” issues? Mission-critical topics such as:
• Vision and Values
• Adding New Campuses
• Financial Projections
• Facility Expansion
• Succession Planning
Notice that most of these topics are future-oriented—vision, expansion, projection, long-term planning. What’s intentionally omitted? Day-to-day operations that are best delegated to church staff (examples: staff supervision, calendaring, specific ministry plans, etc.).
Effective boards don’t spin their wheels rehashing the past or even belaboring the present—instead, they look forward to where the church will be in three to five years. By delegating responsibility for day-to-day ministry decisions to staff, the church experiences a “double win:” 1) staff feel empowered to lead their people; and 2) the board is freed to dream about God’s future from a 30,000-foot level.
But the win-win won’t come easily. Hosting “big rock” discussions at the board level requires discipline. Every team includes personalities who, by nature, tend to be pebble-pickers who prefer getting into the weeds of church life. (A common rationale for pebble-pickers? “I just like to know what’s going on.”)
But an effective board chair and senior pastor will work together to carefully craft a “big rock” agenda in advance, put guardrails around discussion, and remain “alert for small rocks, pebbles, and sand finding their way onto the board table.”
What happens if the meeting runs aground or discussion hits a sandbar? All board members should be empowered to “throw flags” if a conversation veers too far off-topic and graciously course correct to the major issues at stake.
Be warned: The growth of your church will rise and fall on your board’s ability to handle “big rocks only!” As the authors note, “It is very difficult for a church to grow beyond the small church ‘glass ceiling’ unless it gives up a pebbles and sand approach in the boardroom.”
Leaders, let’s roll up our sleeves and move some boulders!
THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY TIM LUCAS:
A new book, Liquid Church: 6 Powerful Ministry Currents to Saturate Your City for Christ, by Tim Lucas and Warren Bird, will be published Sept. 10, 2019. A dynamic communicator, Tim is a sought-after conference speaker known for connecting God’s Word to modern life with humor, heart, and creativity. Liquid’s innovative approach to ministry has been spotlighted on CNN, FOX News, and The Today Show.
Tim leads the Northeast Pastors Coaching Network to equip pastors, ministry leaders, church planters, re-planters, and churches of every shape and size. A graduate of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill., Tim, and his wife Colleen, are raising their two children just outside of New York City. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @pastortimlucas.
• Review the agendas from your last two to three church board meetings. What categories would you put each agenda item in—sand, pebbles, or big rocks?
• For your next board meeting, the senior pastor and board chair should meet in advance to plan and identify the big rocks for consideration. Map out the agenda together and agree in advance how to respond (and graciously redirect pebble-pickers) if small rocks and sand find their way into the discussion.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 22, “Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand.”
• Inspire your board members to enrich their governance competencies at the ECFA Governance in Excellence Forums (eight cities, Fall 2019).
NEXT WEDNESDAY: On July 24, 2019, watch for the commentary by Kevin Conner on Lesson 23, “Pastor Pay—It’s About More Than Just Money. Getting the compensation-setting process right must be a priority.”