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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.

01 Sep '09

Signs of healthy and unhealthy boards

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards, church leadership, conflict, Healthy leaders
How healthy is your board? Do not underestimate the importance of this question if you serve on a board.

The question matters because the health of your board (church or otherwise) will reflect and determine the health of your ministry. Too many boards live with a lack of health and their ministries suffer because of it. If you are a board member, your contribution to health or dishealth of the board you serve on either contributes to overall health or dishealth. Because we are talking about ministry boards, we ultimately answer to the Lord of the Church for our board involvement and stewardship. Board health matters.

Healthy Boards have certain characteristics. They have clarified what is important for the ministry and can clearly articulate its direction. They spend the majority of their time thinking about the future rather than dealing with present day to day management. They learn together, read together and pray together.

On healthy boards, all board members represent the whole of the ministry and engage in honest, respectful, robust dialogue. On a healthy board there are NO ELEPHANTS that cannot be discussed. To the extent that there are issues that one cannot address directly the board is not healthy. Nor do healthy boards ignore real issues in the ministry whether they involve a board member, a ministry program, or the ministry leader. To the extent that there are real issues that cannot or are not discussed, the board is unhealthy.

Healthy boards are unified. That does not mean they always agree but they can work together agreeably and are "in the game" together. They want the best for the church or ministry and will pull together to get there. In this regard, they also care about ministry results. Because they are clear on ministry direction, they are able to measure ministry results. They give staff freedom within clear parameters but they also hold them accountable for measurable results.

Unhealthy boards have a predictable set of practices. They are often unified, focus on management rather than the future, micromanage, allow elephants to exist, do not engage in honest dialogue, allow factions to develop on the board, don't clarify ministry or the future and don't hold staff accountable for ministry results. One of the results of conflict on an unhealthy board is often conflict within the congregation.

The first step toward health is knowing how healthy your board is. The following board self analysis will give you a clue. It is from the book High Impact Church Boards. Remember, the health of your board matters.

1. Are you ever frustrated by the pace of decision-making?
Yes No

2. Is it necessary to get the approval of more than one group
in order to get something done?
Yes No

3. Do you find your board revisiting issues that you thought
you had settled already?
Yes No

4. Is there confusion or conflict over what place the congregation,
staff team or board plays in leadership or decision-making?
Yes No

5. Does your board have a clear job description and understand
its responsibilities?
Yes No

6. Do you find that you spend more time “managing” day-today
activities than thinking and planning for the future?
Yes No

7. Could you identify the clear “preferred future” for your
congregation, and is this a shared dream of the board?
Yes No

8. Do your board and staff members have clear annual ministry
goals and plans?
Yes No

9. Are you frustrated with the number of decisions that need
to go to the congregation for approval?
Yes No

10. Is there a high level of unity and relational health among
board members?
Yes No

11. Do your church structure and bylaws hinder rather than
help leaders make timely decisions?
Yes No

12. Does your board have ample time for prayer and study of
Scripture, and to dream and plan for the future?
Yes No

13. Does your board have a covenant that spells out its procedural
and relational practices?
Yes No

14. Has the lack of such a covenant ever caused problems for
the board?
Yes No

15. Do you have a process designed to find the very best leaders
for your senior board?
Yes No

16. Do you have a process to mentor and train potential leaders
before they become leaders?
Yes No

17. Do you believe that your church is maximizing its ministry
impact?
Yes No

18. Does your congregation have more than one elected board?
Yes No

19. Is there tension or confusion between the staff and board
over who is responsible for what?
Yes No

20. Are you able to attract and retain the best leaders in your
church to serve on your senior leadership board?
Yes No

How many yes answers do you have? _____. A perfect score
would be a yes for questions 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 20

How many no answers do you have? _____. A perfect score
would be a no for questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 14, 18, 19

Take a moment and find out how each member of your board
answered these questions, and discuss the results together. The
resulting conversation will help you identify issues in your
church leadership paradigm that need to be changed—if you
are going to maximize your congregation’s ministry impact.