Ask the average pastor for a list of greatest frustrations and the church board will likely be near the top. Many feel their board is stuck in traditional thinking, untrusting, and more of a restraint than an actual resource. At the same time, the typical board is responsible for holding the lead pastor accountable, has budgetary approval at the highest level, and has much influence over the church’s direction.
Last month, the Harvard Business Review highlighted research revealing specific areas in which non-profit boards struggle to be effective. Their findings directly relate to many churches:
Board members fail to understand mission and strategy.
27% of non-profit board members say that “fellow board members lack a strong understanding of the organization’s mission and strategy.” If your church’s board members don’t fully comprehend why you exist and how you operate, they’re going to regularly make off-target suggestions and become frustrated when their misguided expectations are unrealized.
Lead pastors must spend time educating their board members on their ministry mission and strategy. The vast majority of board members have very little ministry experience. To expect them to just “get it” is simply naive.
Pastors: When was the last time you really mapped out your mission and strategy to the board? What are you doing to develop their ministry-mindset?
Giving is overemphasized with board members.
Among non-profits that require board members to fundraise, 90% of members said that task is at least as important as other duties. While church boards rarely come with an expectation of fundraising, many churches do place an overemphasis on individual giving when selecting board members.
Board members must be chosen based on their character and wisdom. When giving becomes overemphasized at the board level, a few issues arise. Financial matters overtake meeting agendas, board membership begins to feel more about status than serving, and younger (less affluent) church leaders are not given influence or development.
Pastors: Are you surrounding yourself with people of wisdom or people of wealth?
Boards lack a succession plan for their senior leader.
69% of non-profit boards do not have a succession plan for their senior leader. I’m concerned this number would be even higher among churches. The truth is, your church is going to be around longer than you will. Is your board prepared to continue leading without you? In the event of an emergency, your board needs to know who the interim pastor would be as well as several individuals you would recommend as your replacement.
Pastors: If something were to suddenly make you unable to lead, would your board know how to navigate through that transition?
It’s true that church boards can be a cause of frustration. Yet much of that frustration could be eliminated if lead pastors took more responsibility for their boards. Help them truly understand your mission and strategy. Lead the church to select board members based on character and wisdom. And set up the board to lead successfully in your absence. Doing so will allow you to work with your church board rather than in spite of it.