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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

08 Aug '12

Operate without a church board covenant at your risk!

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards
I have recently been reminded by several conversations how important it is to have a board covenant that spells out how board members relate to one another and work together. It takes only one board member to cause significant chaos in a church and on a board when the acceptable behaviors are violated.

Verbal agreements about board behaviors are not enough. They can be forgotten and disputed. Written covenants that are agreed to and signed by board members clearly delineate what is expected for those who are serving as leaders. It is hard for other board members to ignore behaviors that are clearly defined, in written form and signed by all involved.  

Here is an example of such a covenant from my book High Impact Church Boards.

Knowing that we, as leaders of this congregation, must model godly relationships before on another and the church, we commit ourselves to:

  • Pray daily for fellow members of the leadership team and for the ministry of the church
  • Never speak ill of any member of the team
  • Resolve broken relationships personally and quickly
  • Forgive one another when offended and hold no grudges
  • Always support decisions of this board once they are made, unless a biblical, moral issue is at stake
  • Care for one another when a member is hurting
  • Always be honest in board deliberations and never devious in seeking personal agendas
  • Never betray a confidence of the board
  • Hold one another accountable for this covenant and agree to step off the board if there is regular violation of these agreements.

Perhaps the most important piece of the board covenant is the last one: that when there is a violation of acceptable practices, the rest of the board will hold the one(s) who have violated the covenant accountable for their behavior. 

Why? Because unhealthy boards compromise the health of the church! Board behavior is the model for congregational behavior. Boards that don't hold one another accountable for agreed upon behaviors cannot hold others accountable for their behaviors. And  it takes only one unaccountable board member to poison both the board and cause resulting chaos in a congregation. There are numerous stories of congregational pain and conflict when a board member violates acceptable practices which is compounded when the rest of the board does not hold them accountable.

Too often we ignore board covenants assuming that everyone will behave. Some don't. Too often we ignore violations as not a big deal: They are! Overseers are told to protect the flock: it starts with themselves. Ignore board covenants and problematic behavior to your own peril.