21 Aug '13
Church boards and church culture
From the archives
I do not believe that most church boards understand the direct correlation between the health of their relationships and practices as a board and the health of relationships and practices within the congregation. Generally speaking, there is an almost one to one correlation between how a board does relationships and behaves and what happens in the congregation itself. To put it directly: The congregation takes its cues as to what is acceptable behavior from its leadership.
I once worked with a board that was not unified over an important decision – even though the board had made a decision. Because this board did not have a covenant of behavior, several board members who didn't agree with the decision continued to bring their issues up at the board level. And, they shared their views outside the board meeting so the lack of unity on the board spilled over to a lack of unity as a congregation – a situation that could caused the congregation great pain in days that followed.
Here are some issues for boards to consider that directly impact the congregation as a whole.
- Do we encourage candid discussion in board meetings but once a decision is made all support that decision in all settings?
- Do we keep board discussions confidential?
- Do we resolve personal differences quickly and biblically?
- Do we have a covenant of how we work and relate to one another and deal with board members who violate the terms of that board covenant?
- Are we able to set personal agenda’s aside for the health of the church and are we able to set our pride aside and support the decision of the group even when it is not the one we would have made?
- Do we have a culture of spiritual dependence in our deliberations?
Boards must understand that their commitments and behaviors will be mirrored in the congregation as a whole. To the extent that they are healthy they are likely to have a healthy congregation – or the opposite if unhealthy. The health of your church is directly related to the health of your board.
If you serve on an unhealthy church board I would encourage you to speak up and name the elephant in the room. Don't simply accept poor board behavior because in doing so you are hurting the very church that you are called to lead. There is too much silence in too many church boards over too much problematic behavior that directly impacts the spiritual health of the congregation.