Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 20% Board Member

During my years at Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association, I recall that both elders and church board members practiced a very high level of commitment to excellence. And for many, excellence could only be accomplished with a high commitment of time.

One elder intentionally limited her “day job” work week to four days, so she could have elder office hours at the church one day a week. Imagine that! She voluntarily gave up 20 percent of her salary so she could serve Christ and the church a full day every week (plus elder meetings and much more).

I was contrasting that commitment to a ministry board I heard about recently.  With just two formal meetings a year, and very minimal time in those meetings, I wondered how the full expression of Christ-centered governance could enfold in just two hours every six months.

Fortunately, the Bible (and ECFA) does not define how many hours are required for stewards to pray, discern, conduct due diligence, affirm the vision, encourage and evaluate the top leader, and all the other essentials of good governance. 

But…how long should a board meeting be? Two hours? Four, six or eight hours? A weekend? I asked this question in a blog in 2013, “No Bad Board Meeting Is Too Short!” I quoted Roger Ebert, the movie critic who died that year, who famously said, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Ditto our board meetings! (That blog, by the way, was the most read blog in the last three years--by far!)

I mentioned to the CEO of the “short board meetings” mentality that I could not, in good faith, join a board that met so infrequently and so briefly. While he assured me the board members interact often outside of meetings, I wasn’t sold.

One ingredient of healthy marriages—and all relationships—is time. Board relationships are no exception. Read the Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes Great Boards Great.” And take a cue from Gen. McChrystal, who recommends whitewater rafting as a team-building (or board-building) event. He’s serious!

How often have you heard: “Eduardo, I hope you’ll say yes to serving on our board. It won’t take much of your time.”

Contrast that with this poignant thought from Jeremy Taylor, the 17th century cleric in the Church of England:  
“God hath given to man a short time here upon earth,
and yet upon this short time eternity depends.”

Or this from John Wesley:
 “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

I prefer board colleagues that take their steward roles quite seriously; devote generous amounts of prayer time together, and as long as I’m preaching here—turn their cell phones off during meetings.

QUESTION: With eternity in mind, how will you inspire your board members to discern the appropriate amount of time to invest in God’s work, as stewards of the ministry?

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