13. Carver, Governance and Policy: Can the Congregation Handle It?

If the church leadership discerns that Carver Policy Governance would be beneficial for their local church to adopt, how does it prepare the congregation for this shift? Or is the congregation unaffected by such a change in governance modality?

Some communication with the congregation is advisable. In our current Evangelical culture many are suspicious about methods or technologies developed in society and then adopted by the church community. There is legitimate concern being expressed here because methods and means used by the church must be compatible with the values espoused by the faith community. If a church board desires to adopt Policy Governance, then it has a duty to demonstrate to the congregation that this mode of Board Governance is compatible with the Kingdom values embraced by the church. But perhaps even more importantly to show that this change will enhance the community’s life – improving excellence, enabling better decisions, implementing better accountability, liberating the church board so that it devotes its time to the critical things that promote church health.

The congregation should also be made aware that this shift in governance requires a change in the way pastoral staff exercises its leadership. In terms of Policy Governance the board will be empowering the pastoral leaders to implement the ministry initiatives (following appropriate decision-making protocols) necessary for the church to achieve its vision. Pastors will be empowered to lead, not only to provide spiritual care. In some congregations this requires a major change in perspective.

Policy Governance, if it is working properly, elevates the level of accountability throughout the institution. This holds true for the faith community. Since churches rely on a significant level of volunteer leadership, those in these positions of leadership will need some encouragement and mentoring to understand and accept this new level of accountability. The other side of this coin, however, is that Policy Governance also empowers, granting permission to use whatever means are legal, consistent with the institutions values, and within the financial and other resources of the entity, to achieve the vision. If the outcomes established are not being achieved, then the Board will be evaluating and expecting changes to be made.

The congregation should also expect a change in the kinds of decisions in which they will be asked to participate. Some may feel this is a loss of ‘democracy’; others may claim that this represents a power grab; still others will suggest that the board is no longer sensitive to the needs of the congregation. Again, good explanation well in advance and also continually reinforced will go a long way to eliminating such fears. On the positive side, the congregation should expect to be engaged in making decisions on those things that really matter, i.e. how can we plant another church or how can we reach the youth in our community, rather than debating the colour of the new carpets or approving the contract for garbage collection. The result should be a congregation more engaged, rather than less, because they are dealing matters of Kingdom significance.

When church boards are considering adopting Policy Governance, then take time to explain well to the congregation why this is being done, what the benefits should be, and how their role will change. As implementation occurs, continue to point out how it is working in beneficial ways. Do not expect the congregation to be able to discern this on their own. Be proactive, anticipate difficulties, and be transparent throughout the change process.

This entry was posted in Board, Board Chair, Board Governance, Board Member, Congregation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.