299. Do Effective Church Boards Contribute Significantly to Congregational Health?

It is fairly well established in the corporate world that an effective board contributes significantly to corporate success. Research shows a similar correlation between effective boards and healthy nonprofits. So this raises the question — is there a relationship between effective church boards and healthy churches?

In church circles the correlation between pastoral leadership and healthy churches gets the vast majority of attention. Rarely does the potential correlation between a healthy church board and a healthy congregation get any visibility. However, I think that this relationship may be more fundamental to congregational health and effectiveness than we often perceive. After all, lead pastors are only involved with a congregation for a term, but the church board is always part of the congregation’s life and DNA.

The relationship between effective church boards and healthy congregations find its basis and rational in the following correlations:

  1. Effective church boards have figured out their relationship with the lead pastor and know how to maximize the partnership for the good of the congregation. No matter how charismatic or competent a lead pastor may be, if the relationship between the board and that lead pastor is essentially dysfunctional, then congregational health suffers and the effectiveness of the board deteriorates substantially.
  2. Effective church boards understand the importance of clear, relevant policy and sound board operations. When church boards lead through consistent policy, this creates a stable environment where the staff know their accountability and roles and the board members have clarity about their responsibilities. Good policy enables all leadership elements in a congregation to work in alignment with the mission, vision and values. Critical outcomes drive ministry development and decisions.
  3. Effective church boards know their role in the strategic leadership of the congregation and exercise it prudently and with spiritual intelligence. No one questions the significant role a lead pastor plays in the strategic leadership of a congregation — but he or she is not the only contributor. An effective board is able to exercise strategic leadership by establishing clear outcomes and holding staff accountable for their achievement, while disciplining itself not to get involved in management issues.
  4. Effective church boards realize that risk cannot be avoided, but must be addressed and mitigated effectively. Strategic leadership always entails risk, but effective boards understand how to deal with risk and control it as much as possible.
  5. Effective church boards demonstrate quality leadership and expect quality performance from their staff.When church boards pay as much attention to enhancing the quality of their leadership as they do to the performance evaluation of the lead pastor, everyone benefits, including the congregation.
  6. Effective church boards value the board’s education about its role and take active steps to engage it and support it. Church boards in healthy congregations have a good sense of there weaknesses and take initiative to address them. The drive for excellence in leadership begins with the board and they should model this for every ministry in the congregation.
  7. Effective church boards know how important good communications are with the staff and the congregation and work diligently to implement and sustain these communications. Poor communications jeopardize relationships and create divisions, leading to unhealthy congregations. Effective church boards take responsibility to ensure that good communications are happening at all levels of congregational life.
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