12. Carver, Governance, Policy and the Local Church Board: Board Chair and Lead Pastor Relationship

The Carver Policy Governance model requires both the church board chair and the lead pastor to understand their respective roles clearly and be supportive of each other in those roles. This is especially important when a local church seeks to implement the Policy Governance model.

Carver states very clearly that the Board chair’s primary role is to ensure that the Board disciplines itself to govern according to its stated policies. Such responsibility includes overseeing Board planning, ensuring educational development is occurring, conducting Board evaluation, and working with the primary leader in the organization to advise and support. The primary leader, simultaneously takes responsibility for the same kinds of functions within the organization, so that the vision and the ends that define the vision are being achieved within the Board’s stated limitations. This person advises and supports the Board chair.

As in most social entities good relationships are critical for healthy and sustained development. Within the context of a local church, whether or not the Board operates according to Carver Policy Governance, the relationship between the Board chair and the Lead Pastor must be marked by:

  1. deep, mutual trust;
  2. growing respect for the wisdom and gifts God provides to each;
  3. constant, clear communication on all significant issues;
  4. commitment to the success of the other in their ministry;
  5. consistent spiritual awareness and accountability;
  6. ability to keep confidence and confidence that each is speaking up for the other.

Well-defined role descriptions can be a great assistance, but will not in themselves guarantee good relationships. The mutual support required will go far beyond words written on a page. Their respective leadership within the church puts them at the very centre of the spiritual warfare constantly engaged as Jesus advances his rule in this world.

To sustain and enhance this relationship takes time, prayer, patience, humility, a teachable spirit, a forgiving spirit, and continual interaction. Some simple, but consistent practices will go a long way to prevent disruption and conflict.

  1. The Board chair should always invite the Lead Pastor’s input into the development of the Board’s agendas, well in  advance of the meeting. There should be no surprises for either leader at the Board meeting. Similarly the Board chair should not be hearing about a new ministry initiative from a church member, but directly from the Lead Pastor before it is implemented.
  2. There should be formal agreement not to contradict one another in public, or to introduce new developments or ministry initiatives until there has been some private discussion.
  3. If differences do arise, there should be a deep commitment to pray, interact and find resolution in healthy ways, but  to keep such discussions confidential as much as possible.
  4. Time should be found to share with each other respective vision for the church’s ministry, with freedom to disagree and interact in love, without feeling defensive.
  5. When an offense, either real or perceived, is experienced, deal with it immediately, one to one. The Board chair must take responsibility to ensure that employment issues are dealt with fairly, in a principled manner, and as expeditiously as possible.
  6. Exercise a lively, loving concern for the welfare of each other.

Each working partnership will develop uniquely because of the personalities, giftings, and competencies that each brings into the relationship. A good part of the ministry energy sparking the church’s development should come from the generative thinking, passionate praying, and mutual care these two individuals enjoy together. Trust is built over time and incrementally. Give it time, work at it, support it with prayer, listen well, think the best of the other. The Holy Spirit can work some amazing things.

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