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20 Aug '12

When boards are unable to police their own

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards
Here is an interesting dilemma to consider. One of the Biblical roles of church boards is to protect the flock against the "wolves" of heresy, unrepentant ongoing serious sin and those that cause division in the body.

Yet many church boards are unable to even police themselves and deal with individuals on their board who cause disruption to the board itself. How can a board that cannot deal with its own issues deal with the issues of the church at large?

Consider these behaviors of board members that hurt the board:
- Unwillingness to abide by corporate decisions and team process.
- Sharing of confidential board discussions with others outside the board in an attempt to influence others.
- Holding offense against other board members that they are unwilling to resolve.
- Speaking ill of other board members or the staff.
- Problems of anger.
- Defensiveness that prevents others from speaking into their lives or behaviors.
- Disruptive behaviors that hurt board processes.

It takes only one unhealthy and unaccountable board member to poison the atmosphere of a board. Almost everyone who has served on a church board has encountered one or more of these. Yet all too often, the board itself is unwilling or unable to deal with behaviors that hurt the board and consequently the church. 

Two rules of thumb that I have observed over the years make this even more problematic. First, the congregation rarely rises above the spiritual temperature of the board - and this issue is a spiritual issue. Two, the behavior of a board usually becomes the behavior of a congregation. Thus, unhealthy behaviors on a board will usually be reflected in the congregation as well.

I strongly advise boards to have a board covenant that all members sign before they come onto the board. When there is a violation of that covenant, boards must exercise the discipline of policing their own for the sake of the health of the church.

The bottom line is that when boards cannot police themselves the hurt the church as a whole and cannot expect members of the congregation to live by standards they themselves cannot live by.