32. The Transition into the role of Church Board Chair

So the annual church elections are finished and you are now one of the board members. But more than that, the board at their first meeting asked you to serve as chair, because the previous chair person had completed his term with the board.

What now will you do in the first few months to fulfill this responsibility well? Perhaps the following checklist might help you set your course well.

1. Reflect on the context of the transition — the state of the board, the state of the congregation, the relationship with the pastoral staff, the style of the previous chair’s leadership. Try to describe in a sentence or two what your perceptions are in each case.

2. Establish what your priorities as chair will be in the first year, in the light of the expectations others have for you in this role (whether higher or lower than your own). Write these down. It will form a useful check at the end of your first year in the role and also keep you on target through the year.

3. Gain a clear grasp of process, bylaws, and precedents. Often a board has traditional processes that are not in writing. Are you aware of these? Perhaps a conversation with the prior board chair will help you discern what these might be.

4. Commit to building an effective relationship with the lead pastor and with other board members. How have you communicated this and what specific action will you take to initiate it?

5. Develop a means of building and maintaining the respect of the other board members. There is a positive and negative aspect to this. Do you know what kinds of actions as chair will cause you to lose the board members’ respect? On the positive side, what specific ways will your leadership develop a reservoir of respect that can help you through the challenging times?

6. Develop a mechanism of getting good, balanced feedback on my own leadership and the decisions that the board is making. Who will be help you in this? “Triangulation” is a good strategy — having three or four people with very different perspectives will help you gather valid understanding and not be swayed by bias.

7. Create a plan for sustaining your own spiritual life in good order. Perhaps this is the most important issue of all. Who will be your accountability partner, someone you will meet with regularly for prayer and confidential spiritual interaction?

8. In order to give this responsibility the attention it deserves, what limitations will you place on other work you have been doing in the church?  Here again there may be some expectations that others have for you, but you know better than anyone what limits you must establish personally in order to “maintain the pace” as board chair.

Do you have any other advice that you would give? Perhaps you have served as a chair for a number of years and would have additional guidance based upon your experience that would help other board chairs. Please share it in the response mechanism following this article.

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