The Most Important Function of a Church Board

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The Most Important Function of a Church Board

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.

By | 2016-10-12T11:01:06+00:00 December 6th, 2012|Church Organization, Governance|

About the Author:

William Vanderbloemen
William is the founder and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group. William has been able to combine over 15 years of ministry experience as a Senior Pastor with the best practices of Executive Search to provide churches with a unique offering: a deep understanding of local church work with the very best knowledge and practices of professional executive search. Prior to his founding The Vanderbloemen Search Group, William studied executive search under a mentor with over 25 years of executive search at the highest level. His learning taught him the very best corporate practices, including the search strategies used by the internationally known firm Russell Reynolds. He also has experience as a Manager in Human Resources in a Fortune 200 company, where he focused on integration of corporate culture and succession planning. All of these experiences have come together with his pastoral work to form a unique gift for helping churches and ministries connect with the right key people. Prior to executive search, William led growth and innovation in churches in North Carolina, Alabama, and Houston. During his time in Alabama, William had the chance to help rebuild and relocate an ailing congregation, and lead them to new levels of growth. At 31, he was elected Senior Pastor for the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, a church of about 5,000 adults and 1,500 children strong. It is Houston's oldest congregation. He is regularly invited to speak across the country in both church services, and as a resource to churches and conferences on leadership. William holds degrees from Wake Forest University and Princeton Theological Seminary. Besides helping connect churches with key staff and preaching, William spends a whole lot of time with family, and connecting with people. William is an avid social networker. Whether connecting with friends, candidates for searches he is doing, or church members, he loves to network, and he would love to interact with you through Facebook and/or Twitter. He is co-author with Warren Bird of "Next: Pastoral Succession That Works;" more information can be found at William, his wife Adrienne, their seven children, and their two poodles (one small who thinks she's big, and one big who thinks he is a lap dog) live in Houston. In his free time, William enjoys running, working out, and caddying for his kids, who are now better golfers than he is.