How should Senior Pastors interact with their board? How should the board interact with their pastor? It’s a classic question we get asked a lot as we do executive searches. Therefore, we are posting some insights we have gained from merging our constant study of corporate best practices, our biblical study, and our church experience. Today’s question:
What is the most important function of a church board?
Some boards believe that they best help the church and pastor by alleviating the pastor’s management duties. Oftentimes, these boards see themselves as guardians or custodians of the church—which can quickly lead to micromanaging.
Other boards see themselves as friends of the pastor, there to protect the pastor at all costs. There’s no micromanagement under this model, but it can lead to “rubberstamping.” Another hidden result is that the pastor is left with little or no counsel to help with weighty decisions.
So which model is right?
A recent study conducted by Heidrick & Struggles with The Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business identified several key factors that help boards and CEO’s interact. We’ve done a little bit of translating from corporate practices:
High functioning boards define success differently—Success isn’t measured by (a) the board managing the company or (b) the Board getting out of the way. Success is measured by the board’s ability to help the CEO make fast, wise decisions.
It’s true of boards and their CEO’s in the corporate world, where the best companies are able to combine wisdom with agility to make good, fast decisions in a quickly changing world. In today’s post-Christian culture, the church doesn’t have time to move slowly. Agility wins, but it must be agility coupled with wisdom.
Most church boards are in place for accountability, which certainly needs to be a function of a governing board of overseers. But if you look at the biblical model for elders, the fast-paced growth of the church in Acts, and the healthiest churches around today, you’ll see a common thread:
High functioning boards focus their time on helping inform the pastor so he can make better, quicker, and wiser decisions. Such boards are also committed to staying out of the management of the day-to-day activities.
Rick Warren once told me, “William, people ask me all the time what “vision” is. I tell them that vision isn’t the ability to see the future. Nobody can see the future. Vision is the ability to see what’s going on right now, and act with agility and wisdom.”
If you were to list the functions of your church board and put each of those functions into either a basket labeled Agile Discernment or High Management, which basket would be more full?
If you were to list the criteria for choosing your church’s board, how high does “the gift of wisdom and discernment” rank? How high does a commitment to agility rank?
We’ve come to believe that wise, agile boards are a major conduit God uses to build a winning church. When a commitment is made to focus on this function, the pastor gains counsel, the board functions in their gift set, and the church is equipped to act quickly with a visionary momentum that will help the Kingdom win.