Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So, You Are Now On The Church Board

What do you do now? Consider the following (instructions for board members):

1. Don't Step Up Unless You're Ready and Willing to Step Down

One pastors said this, "As long as your leadership is good enough to help the church, you belong on the board. But if the church ever outgrows your ability to lead, you will have to step down."

Your purpose on the board is to serve the church and the pastor; not for it or him/her to serve you. For that reason, hold on loosely to your position on our board of elders. Be acutely aware that it is a privilege to serve in a church where God is working, and be appreciative to be where you are. God could have chosen anyone to serve Him, yet He picked you. Strive to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Eph 4:1). Be determined to never stand in the way of what God is doing at the church.

2. Protect Your Pastor So He/She Can Pursue God's Vision

One day you will stand before God, and one of the things He might ask is, "Did you make it easier or harder for your pastor to fulfill the vision I gave him for the church?" A very sobering thought, and it should ground you in all your decisions as a leader.

Unfortunately, some church board members seem to believe their role is to protect the church from the pastor. They couldn't be more wrong. If God has called a pastor to a church, then the board's role is to protect the pastor so that he or she can pursue the vision.

It is rare that a pastor ever intentionally hurts a church. For every individual pastor who abuses his position, there are many thousands of board members who abuse theirs! Often it's in the name of stewardship. While stewardship is important, many board members practice stinginess and call it stewardship. God cares about people. Money itself has no value to God; he can create it or destroy it at will. It's merely a tool to be used for his purpose.

So how do you protect your pastor? Create an environment where he/she has enough room to work effectively. That means making sure he/she has the resources he/she needs to pursue the vision (2 Cor 9:6). It means allowing them to risk and occasionally fail for the sake of the Kingdom (Rom 15:1). It means providing for him/her and their family so that worries about finances don't become a distraction (Luke 10:7). It means giving them sound counsel (Prov 15:22), gently pushing back when they're wrong (Eph 4:15), and defending them against careless accusations (1 Tim 5:19). And of course it means serving when asked. Nobody in the church should tie the pastor's hands, chain his feet, and then say, "Go ahead, pastor. Run the race!"

3. Find the Role on the Board Where You Add the Most Value

Scripture makes it clear that we are to work together in the body of Christ, each of us using our gifts (1 Cor 12). People who serve on a board should keep that in mind and figure out how they can best serve the team.

One member of the board may be a true prayer warrior, another may have extensive experience in non-profit fundraising at the highest levels. Another may be an entrepreneur who founded and leads a technology company. Another may own businesses, has built commercial facilities, and understands complicated business arrangements. They all contribute according to their individual strengths.

One member may be gifted to asking penetrating questions. It comes as a result of a strength in strategic thinking.

The secretary must keep the minutes and records for the board, which will be easier if the secretary has writing experience.

What unique contribution can you make to add value to your team? It's your responsibility to figure that out.

4. Serve Somewhere in the Church in Addition to the Board

One of the dangers of serving on boards is that people can lose their way and develop a wrong attitude about leadership. Jesus washed his leaders' feet and reminded them to serve others rather than rely on their authority (Luke 25:24-26).

One of the best ways to prevent and battle a wrong attitude is to serve in areas of the church unrelated to board duties. Carry that responsibility and perspective with you always, do not carry that authority outside of the boardroom.

A ministry leader serves under the authority of the pastor. You won't always agree philosophically, and your may not be shy about offering your opinions. But at the end of the day, submit to his authority and serve as you are asked. It's dangerous for someone to lead who hasn't learned to follow. As Al Garsis says, "I can lead, and I can follow. An important aspect of leadership is knowing when to do which." As a board member, you need to figure that out.

When you serve on a board, you're really there to assist the person God has called to fulfill the vision. But that is not your ministry. You have to do your part, according to God's call on your life. That means finding somewhere you can serve effectively.

5. Lead and Serve With Eternity in Mind

For a lot of people, church is on the periphery of their lives. It's a place to engage socially, to "fill up" on Sundays, or to perform some volunteer work to make them feel better about themselves. Individuals who approach church this way have lost sight of how high the stakes are. What hangs in the balance is where people will spend eternity!

As a member of the church's board, it is your responsibility to maintain perspective. What does that mean? First, it means trying to always keep the big picture in mind. We sometimes call this maintaining a 30,000 foot view of the church. We can't afford to get caught up in petty matters or territorial disputes. We need to keep our hearts set on God, our eyes focused on the vision, and our minds engaged in thinking about what the church needs to be doing in five years, ten years, and farther into the future.

It also means you need to be praying. One of the most important things you do as a board is pray; for protection for the church and its staff, for guidance from God, for confirmation of the vision that God has given to your leader. You may or may not be naturally good at this, but work at it constantly. Honestly, if you're not willing to really go after prayer for your church, then you probably don't belong on the board.

You may feel that some of these suggestions are a bit rigid in some way, that the bar is being set very high. If so, you're right. What you do in ministry is the most important thing you will do in life; after leading and caring for your family. The Church is Christ's bride, and protecting her is an awesome responsibility and a fantastic privilege. One day, we hope to hear God tell us, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Do everything you can to lead in a way that honors God and advances His kingdom.

[By Charlie Wetzel]

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