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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.

07 Jul '10

Split Boards, Split Congregations


It grieves me every time I hear it. A church board that cannot get its act together, cannot speak with one voice, and cannot deal with rogue board members. Once again, I heard recently of a pastor who has resigned from his church because of massive, ongoing, untreated cancer on his board. Cancer of disagreement, lack of unity, inability to resolve issues, inability to make common decisions that are then kept and inability to support the pastor with one voice.

This is a board that is going to cause a crisis for the congregation. Their poor leadership, their inability to police themselves and their total lack of leadership skills will likely throw the congregation into a major leadership, ministry and financial crisis. The congregation may never recover from a massive wound which their own leadership has inflicted.

There are three principles that I have observed over the many years that I have worked with church boards and congregations. First, the congregation rarely exceeds the spiritual level of its leaders. Second, the congregation usually mirrors the unity or lack of unity of its leaders. Third, congregations suffer deeply when there is dysfunction on the board and benefit deeply when there is health on the board.

Boards think that what happens behind their closed doors are secret. Congregations read the health or dishealth of the board in intuitive ways and real ways and their conduct, health, alignment and behavior matters. Frankly some boards behave in ways that they would never allow others in the congregation to behave.

Once when talking to a church leader about massive board dishealth in his church I suggested that the whole board ought to resign and allow a new group who were willing to work in a unified and healthy way take over. The alternative of perpetuating ongoing board and therefore congregational dishealth is too painful - and too hurtful to the bride of Christ.

One thing I know about this present situation is that a number of board members simply refused good help and counsel when it was offered. They refused help and counsel from seasoned mature leaders and in the end they have deeply wounded the church instead. The book of Proverbs has a word for those who refuse wise counsel - "fools." It is a strong word but it fits rogue boards or rouge board members wherever they are who will not or cannot get their act together for the sake of the congregation they lead.

The church is the place where the very best leadership should be found for it represents the most important enterprise in the world - the bride of Christ and the spread of the Gospel. Where that leadership is treated lightly, where personal agendas get in the way, where rouge and unaccountable board members are tolerated - it is a sinful shame.