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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.

05 Sep '09

Boards that are not united and don't face reality


I have recently been watching a church board that is not united and not facing realities within its congregation. Members have been marginalized, issues have been ignored and there has been a slow but steady exodus of key long time members from the church. Notwithstanding the evidence of problems that board has not been willing to deal with substantive issues the church faces. Instead it has presented an "all is well" message to the congregation.

Here is an interesting fact about congregations. They are not stupid. They may not know all the facts but they can sense when something is wrong. But, being gracious and not wanting to hurt the church most will not fight, make a fuss, or try to force change. Nor are they in a position to do so. They are not in leadership and in the end it is the leaders who either choose to deal with problems or not. And their choices have consequences for the church.

What do they do? As they become disillusioned, they simply leave, quietly. And board members and staff whitewash their leaving. There is always a good reason. And who leaves? Usually the very people who have the insight to understand the issues that are not being addressed are the ones who leave. And in many cases they have been ignored when they tried to appropriately address those issues with leaders.

So, the very people that the church needs to move forward are the ones who quietly migrate out of the congregation. I have watched this many times and it is disastrous for the church in the long run.

I wish at every annual meeting, someone would ask the church chair or board chair how united, aligned and healthy the board is - and get a candid answer. Here is something I know from long experience. Divided boards end up dividing a congregation - one way or another. It may be a visible division or as I have mentioned, an invisible one, as insightful people simply migrate out.

No church can be healthy with an unhealthy board! Few congregations will rise above the spiritual health of their leaders. People who sense not all is well and don't see that changing, or who sense powerplays in the church will often simply leave. Unhealthy leaders whitewash issues rather than deal with them. They hope that those issues will not get "out" and they do all they can to keep them "in." But, the wisest among us are not fooled. Nor will they stay indefinitely if they believe that leaders are not dealing with real issues.
What happens is a quiet but real leadership drain from the church. Leaders who do not lead well end up losing the leadership pool in the church. Something to think about.