Saturday, March 12, 2016

Board Service Word Association Game

What’s the first word that comes to mind when a colleague or family member asks you, “What’s it like to serve on that board?”

Pick one:
   • Joy
   • Irksome
   • Boring
   • Inspiring
   • Fulfilling
   • Fun
   • Fruitful
   • Encouraging
   • Discouraging
   • (Other):

What’s your word?

My dad served a few terms on the deacon board at our church. I don’t ever recall his post-board meeting commentaries being joyful. Did your parents serve on church or ministry boards? How would they describe board meetings? Are you serving on a board today because of a parent or older mentor who paved a positive path for you?

As a young CEO of what is now called Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA), I was blessed with remarkable board members, and especially board chairs. I remember looking forward to board meetings. 

One of my board chairs in the 1980s, Bob McDowell, had a rich blend of both pastoral and practical gifts. He told us that at the board meetings of Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center (where he served as CEO), he projected the mission statement on the wall—so all decision-making would be in alignment with their mission. That helped our association board fine-tune our mission and stay focused on our vision.

Fast forward to 2016. Bob’s son, Ed McDowell, is now the CEO at Warm Beach and also chairs the national board of CCCA. Ed, I’m sure, saw joy in his dad’s board service, and he joyfully accepted the leadership and board baton. Today, Ed is creating a ripple effect of board service fruitfulness—locally, nationally, and internationally.

This past month when Ed and I were facilitating a board enrichment process for 12 ministries, I learned a new governance term from him: “heavy lifting.” The Warm Beach board meets three times a year (including a board retreat). “Heavy Lifting” or “Work that Matters,” notes Ed, “gets the prime energy of the day. In our 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. agenda, heavy lifting will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon.”

The board wants their best energy (mornings) to be focused on the big agenda items for that meeting. Here’s a bonus idea from Ed. The Warm Beach board uses this sequence in their heavy lifting sessions:
   • Context
   • Draft Recommendation
   • Discussion
   • Refine or Refer Back (to committee, staff, or task force)
   • Approve If Ready

“Heavy lifting” was a new board term for me—and, as I reflected on this, it was a double blessing.  Bob McDowell mentored me on joyful board service and now I’m learning even more from his son, Ed.

QUESTION: Does your board service inspire other family members (sons, daughters, nieces and nephews) to invest their lives in Christ-centered board work? What are they learning from you about growing healthy boards?

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