Episode 3: The Boardroom Agenda Part 2

Do we need to invert our boardroom agenda?

As a board, it’s easy to get caught up in stewardship issues of church ministry, such as plowing, caring for the facility, finances, etc. This is good work, and a board meeting agenda can be filled with it. 

At the same time, we only have so much time to meet each month. Are we spending time praying for our ministry and congregation? What does it look like to shepherd our congregation and hold our pastor accountable?

In the last episode, Bryan, Brett, and Oscar discussed the possibility of removing some of these stewardship tasks from board meetings by making the process more digital or through other means. This way, more of the elder-level work can be completed during board meetings.

Governance structures

There are two main elements of board governance structure. 

First, it’s a common idea to have deacons or deaconesses. These people are the caregivers of the ministry. Sometimes, the term “deacon” can also be interchangeable with “trustee”. 

In any case, these people take care of the “boots-on-the-ground” parts of ministry, such as the budget, operations, facilities, and other stewardship issues. 

Then, there are elders. Elders are meant to really follow the principles of what we see in 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. For a board, it would be extremely beneficial to go through these biblical qualities and define what an elder really is. Then, the next step is to ask why elders really need these qualities. 

As Bryan has noted on his travels visiting churches throughout the country, there’s often one group of men working together on all of the issues, with no distinction between these two roles (elder and deacon). This is really pretty common. 

Sometimes there might be different people appointed to these roles, but very often they meet and serve together all on the same board. There’s not a distinctively different experience.

What does a biblical governance structure look like?

When we think of the disciples ministering, they asked, “Why are we waiting tables?” (Acts 6:2)  They had the sense that there’s a different type of ministry that takes place in church leadership. 

But is there a model that should direct and lead our church design and governance?

There is.

It’s important for churches to have an elder team (even if it’s only two people) who are responsible for following through on what is written in 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. This includes teaching, spiritual leadership, and accountability with the pastor. These might be these men’s only duties. This way, the main thing stays the main thing.

On the other hand, the deacons and trustees will probably be more flexible for handling stewardship duties. 

The Bible does give us a model.

For elders, it’s really easy to lose focus on the spiritual needs of the church. However, when there’s a separate elder committee, they are usually able to stay more on task in regards to these needs. 

Oftentimes, however, each group can become so focused on their own responsibilities that they don’t connect well. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes it’s simply the default nature.

Do most boards have clear job descriptions?

The idea of a role description for a board member is commonly found in a church’s constitution. Usually, though, it’s fairly brief and not very specific. Often, unfortunately, it’s not a very helpful description in regards to the role. 

Although we can go to the Scriptures and find a role description, it can be difficult to customize this for the church without a specific role description that the church has designed. 

One set of questions that are often not answered are in regards to a board chair: 

Should boards have a board chair? Should the pastor be the board chair? Who should be leading the meeting?

In Bryan’s experience with visiting boards, this role often either ends up defaulting to the person who has been in this position the longest, or there’s nobody in particular leading, or the “leader” just ends up being the person who speaks the most or speaks the loudest.

The problem with the process of onboarding new members and helping people understand their role is that often, the person ineffectively leading is also the one who is teaching the new board members. This causes the problem to just be handed down without an improvement in the process.

How do we attract board members?

A lot of church boards operate by using the “nose goes” method. Either serving on the board is a lifetime sentence (“I have to do it because I have to do it”) or people simply get nominated when they’re not at church one day.

This strategy doesn’t seem ideal, but there are plenty of boards who operate this way without an intentional way to appoint board members.

Sadly, it’s not uncommon to hear people say that they actually didn’t become a member of the church because they didn’t want to be a part of the board. 

As discussed on the last podcast, there is something to be said about building the excitement of being a church board leader (or even other types of leaders in the church).

It’s true that it’s not always easy to find joy in board work. It can get messy. It’s not all necessarily pleasant. Still, the work is very valuable and important. 

We should be building a culture within the church ministry to illuminate the joy of serving in this role. Serving as a board member is something that a board member should want to do.

How would you help people want to serve in a smaller congregation?

The work is plentiful, but there are not a lot of workers. If you’re still sitting around thinking that this work is for another person, you probably have the wrong attitude.

You may have heard the saying, “Relationships are what really make you go to church.” Sadly, many men don’t feel connected at church even though their wives and children do. 

Sometimes, men are so busy with their job that they forget there are other opportunities. If this is the case for you, maybe serving on the board is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Leading is a privilege and a way to serve. Serving is a way to use the talents and gifts that are given to each of us by God.

At the same time, board work shouldn’t feel like so much pressure or so heavy that it cannot be done. In most cases, there are older and wiser board members who can walk with the newer members to mentor and help.

What doess it look like to have husband and wife teams in leadership?

Men are not the only ones who can serve in the church. In the Scriptures, we see ladies in deaconess roles who are doing powerful work in the early church. Often, the board room is made to feel like a men’s club, and we miss the opportunity to engage the women. 

It’s not uncommon to hear churches say they only have 6 qualified candidates but so much deacon work to get done. Bringing women into the work of deaconess duties could really help to expand this ministry and relieve some of the qualified elders to do the qualified elder work.

An honest an opinion about the messiness of board work

Honestly, most board work is dealing with the “messy” rather than the privilege. This is an honest reality. It’s usually what people are being asked to step into. And who can blame them for not wanting to step into messy disunity, difference of opinions, different personalities, etc.?

Interestingly, it’s not usually too hard to find people to take care of the babies by working in the nursery. Finding people to hold babies is relatively easy. BUT, if the nursery was nothing but changing diapers for an hour and a half, it might be harder. The diapers get overshadowed, however, by the adorableness of the babies. 

In the same way, it’s true that the work being done in the boardroom is hard work. AND there’s also some board work that’s really, really wonderful and rewarding. As board members, it’s important to communicate that good work. 

Sometimes there’s a secretive society that happens in a board that no one knows and therefore no one wants to be a part of it. Communicating the work that’s being done with the congregation can help people to understand the good work that’s being done in our board rooms.

Serving on the board is going to be hard work – but it’s also good work

If we have the right governance structure, people might actually dread this work less. 

However, at the same time, there should be an expectation that it’s going to be hard work. When you’re in a position of leadership, there are always going to be responsibilities. You may have to do things that the rest of the congregation doesn’t want to do. This is simply the reality. Most things that are worth doing aren’t easy.

The work that we’re doing is worthy work. It’s the future of our ministry. It’s the future of lives in our community.