Episode 7: Board Member Development

Many church board members feel unequipped for their important role as spiritual leaders.

They want to use their God-given gifts to serve the church, but aren’t sure how to do it.

Is it possible we’re taking the wrong approach to the boardroom?

In this episode, we talk about how to help board members grow and learn, so they can work together effectively in the church.

This episode’s special guest

Our special guest this episode is our very own Bryan Walker! Bryan is the president of Grace Gospel Fellowship and has decades of experience working with church boards. He often hosts the podcast, but the team decided that for this episode, we wanted to capitalize on Bryan’s expertise.

Our topic for today: board member development

Today, we’re talking about how to equip board members both inside and outside the board room. What is board member development?

The church board member is often the least trained volunteer in the church. Many board members feel unequipped for this very important role. But board members are called to be spiritual leaders who are guiding and directing the church, so how can we help them to get where they need to be?

Church board members across the country are aware of their need to grow, they just don’t know what steps to take. That’s where development comes in! Board member development is going from point A to point B with a specific intention. In this episode, we’ll talk about how board members can overcome hurdles to growth and development, so they can function more effectively together.

Bryan’s experience working with church boards

Over his lifetime, Bryan has served on 4 or 5 different non-profit boards, and has over 20 years of experience serving on church boards.

How most board members view their role

Generally, board members understand that they have a leadership role and need to keep the church in a strength position. Usually, this is focused primarily on the financial health of the church.

These men are often invited onto the board because they were already leaders in various capacities, so there is an awareness of that leadership responsibility. For many, however, board member responsibilities beyond this are kind of a gray area.

Most board members are leaders in other realms of life

The men on these boards are usually there because they have leadership gifts that they have shown in other areas. However, sometimes we need people from the church on the board who aren’t natural leaders, but who have discernment and wisdom to bring to the board. Not all board members have to be natural leaders.

What percentage of board members come in ready to learn?

Many board members know they are not well equipped, and want to learn and grow. The problem with church board work is that there is so much to do that board member development falls by the wayside. It seems that there is always something more important to work on or take care of.

Because church board development isn’t a top priority, it rarely ever happens. Most church boards want to develop, but for a lack of time or resources, they just don’t get around to it. In many cases, they don’t even really know what they need to learn or how they need to grow.

What should board members be learning?

Bryan says the starting point for church member development is for board members to realize that what they do outside the boardroom might have nothing to do with what they do inside the boardroom. This ministry is like nothing else they have ever done, unless they’ve been a pastor.

A board member might be a great finance person outside the boardroom, but God might not have them doing anything with finances here. All these different board members bring in their gifts, but they don’t always realize that that gift might not be what they’re here to do.

Church board members need to approach their role with open hands, because they might be there just to pray, or do more pastoral work than they are used to. Otherwise, you may have a very professional board, but not the pastoral board that a church needs.

An important step in board member development is for board members to ask the Lord, “What do you have me doing in this role?”

The paradigm shift

Don’t walk into a church boardroom thinking, “how has God gifted me, and how can I impart that gift on the church?”

Instead, your job is actually to determine what the needs of the church are, and then ask how you can come alongside that need. This is the big difference between church boards and other types of boards you may serve on.

What are some of the barriers to learning?

A barrier to church board growth and development is when a church board doesn’t see the need to change. Usually, churches think this way because they’ve done things the same way for 20, 30, or even 50 years and have been getting by alright. It’s important for a church board to recognize the need to grow.

Limited time within the boardroom is another major barrier to board member development. Is the board meeting frequently enough to include time for learning and growth?

A third common barrier for board members who might know they need to learn something but are hesitant to learn, is if they are used to the board agenda not respecting their time. If the board agenda frequently fails to use time wisely and be respectful of everyone’s schedules, board members are going to be hesitant if new personal development plans are introduced.

Tools for church board development

Bryan uses an online survey tool when he comes in to help church boards with development. He likes to conduct an anonymous board survey to see where board members are really at, and what the overall feelings are about board productivity and effectiveness. Often, board members are hesitant to talk about concerns they have in front of the rest of the board, so it can be helpful to use the survey anonymously.

Another great tool to use with your church board is books! Currently, Bryan is going through Lead by Paul David Tripp with his board.

You can also hire a consultant to help with church board development. This is the type of work Bryan does. You can bring someone like him in to help evaluate how your board is doing and make a game plan for growth and development moving forward. A good consultant will provide support and follow through as your board implements the growth plan.

Grace Gospel Fellowship has a church board evaluation tool as well. It’s a way for a board to ask, “How are we doing, and where do we want to go?”

Are you interested in using the anonymous board survey tool or Grace Gospel Fellowship’s board evaluation tool?
Just email Bryan to get access at bryan@ggfusa.org.

Whose responsibility is it to grow board members?

In many churches, there is confusion about whose job it is to make sure the board is developing. Is it the pastor’s job, or the board’s?

Often, board members are waiting for the pastor to take the lead on this, but the pastor is typically under the oversight of the board. Because of this leadership tension, it can be very difficult for a pastor to approach the board with constructive criticism or ideas for board member growth.

In a healthy church, not all the responsibility for board member development should fall on the pastor. In fact, that’s a quick recipe for pastoral burnout!

Board members need to be able to take responsibility for their role as spiritual leaders in the church, because the pastor shouldn’t be the only person thinking spiritually about the congregation.

Final thoughts for pastors

In many churches, the board has professional gifts, but is not functioning as effectively as it could, and the pastor is seriously burnt out. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can get your board to a place of coming alongside you as co-shepherds and being part of the spiritual leadership ministry together.

How can pastors bring board development into the conversation? First of all, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Consider appointing a member of the board to help with board development. Make it their primary responsibility, so they can really prioritize it and make it happen.

There are so many important things going on in a church at any given time that it’s hard to add something new. We get it. But don’t miss the opportunity to help your board members grow and flourish! The better your board is working together, the more healthy your whole church will be.

In this episode:

0:00 – Introduction
1:58 – What is board member development?
5:15 – Bryan’s experience working with church boards
6:32 – How most board members view their role
9:53 – Most board members are leaders in other realms of life
11:50 – What percentage of board members come in ready to learn?
17:13 – What should board members be learning?
21:18 – The paradigm shift
25:26 – What are some of the barriers to learning?
31:44 – Tools for church board development
36:10 – Whose responsibility is it to grow board members?
41:00 – Final thoughts for pastors


Resources Mentioned:

Lead by Paul David Tripp

Grace Gospel Fellowship’s Anonymous Board Survey Tool

Grace Gospel Fellowship’s Board Evaluation Tool


More Resources

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