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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.

23 Jul '10

When my church board is not healthy


My recent blog, Split Boards, Split Congregations generated a fair amount of comment - especially on face book. The comment below illustrates the dilemma that we find ourselves in when one's church board is not healthy.


So as a member of a congregation like this-where personal agendas are taking over and boards are not being held in check--how do you know when to leave? Knowing this is the state of your leadership, how do you keep worshiping in this setting? Is is possible?



Obviously a board like this won't care if your one little family leaves, so no "point" will be made if you go.


When you know of this discord and the heart of leadership, should you stay connected to this body? There are probably more problems like this than we are even aware of. It would sometimes seem ignorance is bliss, but what happens when you DO know? the telling line: the board thinks what they do is done in secret. You are right, it never is! Church members can see and feel it!


There are no easy answers to this dilemma. Obviously the first answer is to pray that the board will get its act together. In addition, I would consider talking to someone on the board that one trusts and who can do something about addressing the issues at the board level. There are books like "High Impact Church Boards" that address these very issues and describe how to take an unhealthy board to greater health.

Often it is necessary to bring in outside counsel who can candidly address the issues that are contributing to poor health and call unaccountable board members to accountability. I have done this on numerous occasions as a consultant to church leadership.


I do not believer we ought to leave churches easily. However, when the leadership is unhealthy and over time one discerns that this is not likely to change, you will see a quiet exodus. The sad thing for the church is that those who leave first are often the healthiest members because they are missionally driven and unwilling to tread water in a place where leaders are spending their time fighting over agendas or guarding the status quo rather than leading the church into healthy ministry. The end result is that when the board wakes up, those they need best are often gone.


These are not people who easily bail. They are generally those who care about leveraging their lives for maximum ministry impact and are unwilling to waste precious years where that passion is not held by the leaders of their church. Generally they will not fight (they are not in a place to make a difference with leadership) but will quietly leave.


What unhealthy boards don't get is that there is a cost to their unhealthy behaviors:
First, congregations will rarely rise above the spiritual level of their leaders.
Second, congregations are often aware of tension, agendas or unhealth on their board.
Third, congregations will often mirror the conduct of their leaders.
Fourth, unhealthy leadership cannot lead congregations in healthy ministry.
Fifth, over time, your most missionally minded people will gravitate to places of greater health.


I cannot answer the dilemma raised by the above response to my prior blog. What I can say is that leaders have no idea how destructive unhealthy board behaviors are to the church and they will be held accountable by God for their leadership - healthy or unhealthy. Many church boards need a wake up call to how their lack of discipline, health, ability to police themselves and lack of missionality is hurting the bride of Christ.