The process for setting the agenda most commonly resides with the senior pastor. I personally believe this is the best method because the person held responsible to lead the organization needs the authority to set the agenda. As mentioned above, board members can contribute to the agenda, but the senior pastor needs the freedom to set the final agenda.
3) How are decisions made?
Few things are more important than how decisions are made. Hopefully you will avoid the extremes. On one extreme, the senior pastor is a benevolent dictator, and on the other side, the board members demand an equal voice. Though in the case of the benevolent dictator you get more accomplished, neither system is truly healthy.
In a healthy organization the decisions are made according to what is best for the vision of the church, not favoring any one person’s personal preference. But even that is complicated, because what is “best” for the church can be subjective.
Therefore, teamwork, unity and a sense of strong esprit de corps is essential. Mutual voluntary submission to one another under God’s authority is central to a healthy and effective decision-making process. Strong opinions are fine, but if each person seeks the mind and will of God with all their heart, conflict will be greatly minimized. Consensus after prayer and process is best, but traditional voting is acceptable if necessary.
4) How are disputes settled?
Every person on your church board is a human being. No matter how mature or what good leaders, there will be times of disagreement. Don’t avoid conflict; the important skill is the ability to resolve the conflict. Further, the measurement of an effective board in terms of conflict resolution is that when conflict returns, it is about something new (not an old issue), and you are able to resolve it quicker.
If the amperage of any issue becomes so great that the board gets stuck or polarized, it’s time to take it offline. By that I mean allow the senior pastor and one or two board members to take some time outside the board meeting to talk things through to resolution. Start by agreeing on the mission, values and that the main goal is not to win, but to advance the mission of the church. If resolution can’t be found, you may need to bring in an outside arbitrator. The point is to keep the conflict away from official board meeting. It may require a frustrated or angry board member to take some time off from the board until unity is regained.
5) What is the structure for the board and staff members to work together?
In smaller churches it can be a power struggle to determine who leads the church, the board or the staff. In larger churches, that issue is usually resolved, but larger churches still often struggle from poor communication between board and staff. In either case, clarity of roles is essential.
There is more than enough for both groups to do! You will want to write your own list, but it can look something like this:
Role of Board Members:
- Affirmation of the vision (usually from senior pastor) through prayer and discernment of God’s voice.
- Direction/affirmation of values and big picture ministry direction, with the senior pastor.
- Determine pace (of acquisition) and values (by which you purchase land and facilities).
- General oversight (big picture only) of church revenue and budget, major capital projects, and senior pastor compensation.
- Act as discerning partners with the pastor: e.g., theological, political, social and community issues, and public position on key issues.
- Ask productive questions and serve to be a provider of solutions.
- Decision making responsibility for major business and property matters of the church.
- Serve as prayer warriors for the general ministries of the church and lead with a positive influence in the congregation.