Monday, August 31, 2015

Board Meetings on Holy Ground

The next time you set the table for your board meeting, set the ground also. The gospel song, “We Are Standing on Holy Ground,” by Geron La Ray Davis, is a powerful anthem to remind board members of our Kingdom roles and responsibilities.

“When I walked through the doors I sensed His presence
And I knew this was a place where love abounds
For this is a temple, the God we love abides here
Oh, we are standing in His presence on holy ground.”

I’ve been reflecting recently on the power of location. Whenever and wherever our boards meet, we’re on holy ground. God’s presence is promised. We can respond to, or ignore, the nudges of the Holy Spirit. Or we can keep one eye on our agendas, and the other eye on our smart phones. Holy ground? Where?

Good news! Many board chairs and CEOs leverage their creativity gifts to create space at board meetings so God’s love and direction abounds. Yet for others, sadly, too often the practical and pragmatic crowds out the holy.

To refocus and leverage the wonder of holy ground, consider a different location for at least one board meeting a year. For example:
   • A CEO friend arranged for a board meeting at an architect’s office. The beauty, the creativity, and the innovative use of space elevated the thinking, the camaraderie, and the praying at this unique meeting location.
    • A board chair asked a ministry partner to host a board meeting—and routine reports took on new meaning as they experienced God stories in person at this ministry to the poor.
   • I facilitated a mission agency’s board retreat on a Christian university campus. Interaction with students and profs in the dining commons was a highlight for many board members.
   • Another CEO friend recently reserved space for a board meeting at a knock-your-socks-off international exhibit, currently under construction. I’ve heard about it—and it will inspire board members to elevate their Kingdom thinking!

This month, a ministry board “took me out to the ballgame” where a meeting room was reserved for a two-hour board meeting prior to the Houston Astros’ no-hitter drubbing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That too, I’ll reluctantly admit, was holy ground—as Christ-centered board members and their spouses enjoyed nine innings of high touch relational time. 

Matthew 18 in The Message is the holy ground promise: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

QUESTION: What would change in your next board meeting if every board member understood the theology of location—that we are standing on holy ground?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The One-Minute Board Member

“How do we think more generatively?”
was the question that Mike Pate, executive director of camping for Transformation Ministries, asked at a board retreat recently. As the retreat facilitator, Mike noted insights from Bill Ryan, co-author of Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards.

Ryan comments, “Good governance is not just about doing work better; it’s about ensuring your organization does better work.”

Mike noted four proactive next steps from his study of generative governance:
• Carve out more time and space in board meetings to wrestle with issues that matter most.
• Spend more time in reflecting on “overall” situations facing your organization…consider the whole picture.
• Practice the “one-minute longer” exercise. “If this meeting could go on for one minute longer, what would you want to talk about?”
• Look outside your industry regularly. “What other developments in different industries might impact ours next?”

All four points are worthy of more reflection (and blog posts)—but the “one-minute longer” challenge got my governance juices going.

At the end of each board meeting, Ryan suggests you jot down anything else you might have said—had the conversation continued. Then hand your thoughts to the board chair as a possible topic for your next board meeting.

Great idea! But let me suggest a 10-minute exercise before the gavel hammers away all creativity.

Board chairs: At your next meeting, hold the gavel in your hand and announce this:

“Before we adjourn, for the next 60 seconds, turn to the person next to you and share your answer to this question: “If this meeting could go on for just nine minutes longer, what would you want to talk about?” I’ll take suggestions from each team of two—and I’ll pick one topic for a final nine-minute discussion. Then…we’ll discuss, pray, and adjourn.”

Ephesians 5 (The Message) reminds us: “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness . . . So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”

I can hardly wait to try this at my next board meeting!

QUESTION: What wisdom or question would you have added with an extra 60 seconds at your last board meeting?