Episode 2: The Board Room Agenda

It’s been said that if you want to know what someone values, you need only to look at their checkbook.

Is there a corollary indicator of what the local church values? With what your church values?

Board Meeting Dynamics

What happens in a board meeting shapes ministry, relationships, and, honestly, it’s simply intriguing. It might be just a meeting, but it’s also so much more. A board meeting is a gathering of people who love the opportunity to make an impact and who love hard work.

Board Meeting Agenda

So, what are the typical components of a board meeting? What happens when its members gather together?

Well, most board meeting agendas have some pretty common elements. Meetings often include a devotional, a prayer time, a review of the budget/finances, discussion of visitors and guests (assimilation), a pastor’s report, a staff report, old business, new business, and lastly, anything else that needs discussion.

For most boards, after all of these elements have been discussed, the meeting is usually about 4 hours in. Often, it’s been 4 hours without food or breaks. 

Everyone’s tired. 

Everyone starts giving less of themselves. 

According to Bryan, this narrative of agenda resonates with most boards that he’s visited around the country.

And even with an organized agenda, how often do we stick to it? If we’re being honest, we all know that it’s hard to stay on agenda. No matter how well-meaning the leaders are when it comes to staying on task, it’s easy to get caught up in fresh items that no one’s had a chance to see, think about, or pray over. Staying on track is really hard.

How do agendas speak to a specific church’s values?

In many cases, the church board room is a reflection of what takes place in its members’ daytime industries. Often, it reflects efficient (or not so efficient), productive work. Meetings are approached with a mindset of, “We’ve got a lot going on. Let’s get it done.” 

Board members discuss all sorts of logistics, from who will plow the driveway to the roof that needs replacement. Whatever needs to be done to make sure the church stays functional and fluid is often first on the list. 

This boils down to a stewardship situation. Stewardship isn’t wrong. Board members are responsible to take care of these needs. The operational, stewardship-level things are a part of church board leadership.

But how does the reality of how our board meetings function compared to how Scripture talks about board leadership?

Well, there are 3 things that boards are responsible to do:

    1. Take care of all the stewardship issues of the ministry
    2. Shepherd the congregation
    3. Shepherd and care for our pastor(s)

Making sure those 3 things get done simply can’t get done in a 3-hour meeting once a month. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of taking care of the things that are most dominant. After all, something like a leaky roof is a problem.

Unfortunately, oftentimes, we end up not being able to get around stewardship issues.

In reality, however, stewardship is actually the lowest priority when it comes to taking care of the congregation, keeping our pastor accountable, taking care of him, and watching over that process. 

Yet, stewardship usurps all other categories because it’s the tyranny of the urgent. And often it’s the strength of most of our board members.

The Ministry of the Board

When we walk into the church board room, we bring our contribution, whether that’s being knowledgeable in finance, facilities, HR, etc. It’s a wonderful part of being a body. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily the complete mechanism in regards to the church board. We also have to consider questions such as, “what is an overseer?”, and, “are we using the right metaphors when we talk about the ministry of the board?”

We fill our board with folks who know how to do things (construction, finance, etc.) because that’s the nature of the board. But this is an incomplete version of the board. And it may not be the task at hand that Scripture assigns to church leadership. It’s not the wrong answer, it’s just not the full right answer.

What happens is that we end up with a significant ministry gap. If no one is shepherding the church with the pastor, then would they be an elder? And what does that leave the pastor with? And if no one is keeping the pastor accountable, is the pastor elevated to a place he shouldn’t be? 

Scripture is very prescriptive of what an elder is and what he does. If there is no one in that position but the pastor, that leaves that ministry pretty vulnerable.

The Uniqueness of Board Work

Being a church board member is a unique opportunity. There are two points that are very important for board members to keep in mind.

    1. There’s nothing like being a board member that we’ll ever do. It’s not like being a board member of a non-profit. It’s a call.
    2. What we are doing in our career might have nothing to do with what we do in the boardroom. 

Often, the boardroom agenda needs to be inverted. Whatever’s the biggest needs to be the smallest, and whatever’s the smallest needs to be the biggest. 

In today’s digital world, we can do a lot of work on the board agenda digitally – via emails, exchanges in advance, etc. – to make the meetings less time consuming. This can be a significant help in managing our time well in board meetings.

Healthy Pastor, Healthy Board, Healthy Church

It’s interesting, yet not surprising, that the churches with a broader degree of church health seem to have more of a commitment to spending time in prayer. There are churches where a large portion of the board meeting is spent in prayer for the congregation, and stewardship issues have been handled earlier via email or through a subcommittee. 

There is certainly a correlation between a church’s capacity in the ministry and how the board handles their ministry.

Finding the Balance for Lay Leaders

For lay leaders, it can be difficult to find the balance between work, family life, other responsibilities, and church board leadership. Lay leaders only have so much time to spend on church leadership issues.

Because of this, there’s a tendency to triage. We’re all busy. We have one night a month to do this meeting. So, we stack it up. 

It’s not really surprising that often, there’s a real reluctance to consider being a board member. Part of this is the time commitment. 4+-hour meetings are a big commitment. For many, it’s simply unappealing.

However, it’s important to remember that being a board member is a privilege. It’s you’re a board member, you GET to serve. 

It’s helpful to realize that other volunteers in the church are often giving hours and hours per month to the service of the church. Nursery workers, musicians, sound booth techs, greeters, and people who shovel the driveway are often giving large portions of their time each month.

Board members need to consider this. If it does take a whole night to get through operational work, another night can be scheduled in order to take care of the work of the elders.

Board Involvement and Other Ministries

In 2018, there were about 380,000 churches in the U.S. Over 95% were smaller than 100 people. There’s an enormous quantity of churches with a limited number of people. 

This poses multiple challenges when it comes to having an effective and efficient board. Some churches only have 3 qualified men to serve on the board. Many times, these are the same men who are plowing the driveway. So, how do we manage the stewardship needs and the elder-level needs with a very small group of people? This is a tough question. It’s easy to over-tax our volunteers.

Closing Thoughts

Service in a church is a part of the culture. It’s part of the fabric of the church. 

As board members, we have to make sure that we don’t make the board a club. Instead, it’s a ministry. It’s an admirable work. 

It’s something we can build on. We can build more candidates. We can have a developmental strategy. 

As a closing thought, let’s remember that just because something’s “always been that way” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy way. 

Can we learn to be better and be a more effective board for our church and for our pastor?