Understanding board member myths can lead to improved governing effectiveness.
THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 35, the authors note that many board members (and senior pastors) have misconceptions about what is actually required of the role. Thankfully, through healthy dialogue and education, a church board can go from a collection of individuals to becoming a high-performance team that effectively guides the senior pastor, staff, and congregation to transform surrounding communities with the life-changing message of Jesus.
Serving on a church board is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it is a work for only the most committed, mature believer (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9). The authors have correctly identified five governance misconceptions that limit a board member’s effectiveness:
• Misconception #1. Board members know exactly what to do.
And why would they? Most new board members have never served on a board or believe their for-profit board experience has adequately prepared them for service. Church boards typically meet monthly (at least they should), and must manage a spiritual weight not experienced in a for-profit role.
• Misconception #2. Board members have a great deal of free time.
No, board members do not have a bunch of free time. To the contrary. Chances are you’ve selected a person to be on your church board because they are accomplished professionally, personally, and spiritually. They have learned to steward their time well. As a result, they’re giving their board service a priority that supersedes other competing initiatives. Because God is calling you to assemble the best board possible, you’ve heeded Benjamin Franklin’s advice: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Don’t assume otherwise with your board members.
• Misconception #3. Most board members have a fundamental understanding of church finances.
Nothing prepares a board member for understanding a church’s finances. Sure, there are monthly income statements and balance sheets, but church finances are often prepared on a cash method and have unique requirements that pertain to designated gifts, the pastor’s housing allowance, and social security taxes. A best practice is to establish a Finance Committee that is a sub-committee of the board—and responsible for developing the financial expertise necessary to effectively steward the church’s resources and manage its risks.
• Misconception #4. Churches are simple entities.
After all, how complicated can a non-profit organization be? Like for-profits, churches are accountable to a host of regulations, tax filings, and legal requirements. Additionally, contractors and child protection require processes and systems not usually found at a for-profit. Since a primary objective for a church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12), vibrant churches have volunteer organizations that dwarf the number of staff, making churches more—and not less—complicated.
• Misconception #5. It’s easy for church boards to avoid micromanaging.
Since board members often don’t know exactly what to do (see Misconception #1), their tendency will be to behave the way they do at work, that is, to give others direction so goals can be accomplished. Churches are often not as sophisticated as other organizations, so there will be a “gravitational pull” to get more involved, not less. Board members need to remember they have only one employee (the senior pastor) and are ultimately responsible for the spiritual and financial health of the church. Board members must leave the day-to-day management of the organization to staff.
MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
Board management is a competency that every senior pastor needs to master. More than financial and legal responsibility, the board is ultimately responsible for the spiritual health of the church. That means selecting a board member is a strategic—and not a tactical—action. If your church is making a difference in the community (I certainly hope it is!), then the evil one will not stand idly by watching God do His work through your congregation (1 Peter 5:8).
One of Satan’s most effective tools is to create dissension within the body (implosion vs. explosion), and the board is always a prime target. Selecting your board members carefully and addressing any misconceptions about their service will result in a strategic, cohesive, and collaborative board that ultimately results in life change—for staff, the congregation, and the community. Board members will be transformed as well, but you’ll have to tune in to next week’s blog to hear more about that!
THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY FRANK BORST:
• Prepare a board member training manual that properly equips new members for service.
• Establish a Finance Committee comprised of subject matter experts in such areas as accounting, insurance, tax, and HR that can do the financial “heavy lifting” for the board as it focuses on the vision and spiritual health of the church.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 35, “Common Misconceptions of Board Members.”
• Inspire your board members to enrich their governance competencies at the ECFA Excellence in Governance Forums (eight cities, Fall 2019).
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