Wednesday, April 3, 2019

LESSON 7 – Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles

Welcome to Lessons From the Church Boardroom—The Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Church Boardroom: 40 Insights for Exceptional Governance, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we'll feature a guest blogger’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Monty Kelso is our guest blogger this week for the third of three lessons in "Part 2: Boardroom Tools and Templates.”

LESSON 7 OF 40 – Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles
Keep your leaders on track with a one-page Prime Responsibility Chart.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 7the authors note that creating crystal clarity around the board’s role and function is vital to each individual’s positive contribution and the overall effectiveness of the board. It’s not unusual—without this clarity—for boards to default to unwelcome involvement in staff functions. Though the board’s intentions may be good, the outcome is often felt by staff as meddling and micro-managing—leaving board members frustrated and confused.

No talented staff member welcomes such a hovering relationship. The solution? Adopt a one-page Prime Responsibility Chart—customized to your particular context—to keep everyone focusing on the right things at the right time. Adopting this tool (and actually using it at your board meetings) will not only eliminate frustration as to who’s in charge, it will safeguard you from those dreaded runaway meetings that go on and on and on for countless hours. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 7, pages 36-41:
So how does a board serve the ministry best? Let’s start first with what usually backfires and then consider a solution.

In an effort to keep the board fully informed about the ministry activities of each staff leader, boards will often open up the floor to the staff to present their ministry reports. Though this sounds reasonable, it often becomes a song and dance with underwhelming results. 

In this lesson, we learn of Pastor Bob’s idea to keep the board fully informed: 
   • “Like clockwork (with no alarm), each ministry staff director presented a detailed report. One problem: the proceedings felt more like an episode of Shark Tank—with each ministry leader vying for more budget and more staff members. The passion was electric, but the ministry impact—not so much.”

So, what would be another approach? In this chapter, in response to Pastor Bob’s angst about too many staff members in the boardroom, individual board members were asked to oversee a particular ministry leader. So board members did a deeper dive into the life and ministry of each ministry director and then reported their observations back to the board. Sounds simple right? Well, as you will read on pages 37 and 38, board members reported rather lackluster results. 

The authors provide a brilliant alternative: 
   • “Our recommendation is that most church boards should relate to one employee: the senior pastor. Then the board must be crystal clear about the board’s relationship with all other staff.”

As one who serves on my home church board, I have a front row seat to the awkward dance that can happen between a church board and its staff. Who’s leading who? What is the tempo? Do we even agree on “the song?”

In fact, recently our senior pastor, Todd, asked me for advice on improving the rhythm and effectiveness of our “overseer board.” As a growing 20-year-old church, for the first time we are in the process of moving to a permanent facility! We realize our world is about to be rocked. And organizational structures and systems that got us to this point will most assuredly fail us going forward. Now is the time to restructure. Though our governance requires “overseers” (as we call them), we have a blank page as to how best to implement our responsibility. So what is one solution to our foreseeable problem?

I’m confident that by adopting the Prime Responsibility Chart (illustrated on page 40; click here to see the tool), we will be able to streamline our oversight while empowering our capable staff to lead with confidence and authority. I believe the PRC will indeed help us eliminate fuzziness between board and staff roles—resulting in greater ministry outcomes on every level. And even more importantly—staff retention. 

As I encounter the “big C church” in my work leading a church staffing ministry, I am up close and personal to the inner workings of many churches. And the people serving those churches are talented, godly leaders who desperately seek healthy cultures where they can thrive. But sadly, many of them feel undermined in reaching their ministry potential—due to unhealthy executive leaders and structures that breed misalignment in mission, methods and roles. As a result, the culture suffers and people take the brunt. 

Organizational health is vital not only to ministry outcomes,
but even more importantly, to those who lead them. 

As leaders who love and serve God, we have a responsibility to lead and love people well. Resisting the need to adopt organizational and management best practices just because it’s not “my gift” is no excuse. If you are in a leadership role overseeing a team of people, I encourage you to chase after knowledge that will better equip you to foster ministry alignment and momentum—beginning with Lessons From the Church Boardroom: 40 Insights for Exceptional Governance


MONTY KELSO is co-founder and President of Slingshot Group. As a staffing and coaching ministry to churches and “kingdom-minded” not-for-profits, building remarkable teams is their primary mission. After serving nearly 2,000 churches in the past 10 years, Monty and his talented team of practitioners have become trusted partners with ministry leaders serving every dimension of the church in America. 

• Commit to read at least two leadership books every year.
• Adopt the Prime Responsibility Chart at your next board meeting.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, “Lesson 7 – Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles.”


On April 10, 2019, watch for the commentary by William Vanderbloemen on Lesson 8, "Thrive With Four Kingdom Values. Pastor Carlos said he didn’t have the spiritual gift of church board meetings!”


BULK ORDERS: Click here.  For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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