Sunday, September 30, 2012

Do You Need a Consultant—or a Pastor?


The nonprofit ministry CEO in the back row of my workshop asked a question about term limits for board members.

He had two board members whose effectiveness, in his opinion, had dried up years ago. Yet the board continued to re-elect these two individuals to successive three-year terms—and there were no term limits.

The CEO felt safe enough in this workshop of his peers to whine extensively (on and on and on, actually) about these dead wood board members who had dug in deep—and “no way,” he said, would they exit from the board.

“Could a consultant help me?” the CEO asked.

The workshop was ending, so my nine-word response was direct: “You don’t need a consultant, you need a pastor.”

In R. Scott Rodin’s powerful book, The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities (read my review), he writes:

“If I could put one Bible verse on the desk of every pastor and every Christian leader in the world, it would be this: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8).”

If you want a healthy board, recruit healthy and spiritually mature people.  If you want a dysfunctional board, recruit people who tilt toward being “owner-leaders,” not “steward-leaders” (Rodin’s poignant labels).

Board members who have hands open—eagerly seeking to hear and obey God’s voice—will not prolong their board service one day beyond His direction.  At a minimum, authentic Christ-followers will invite frank feedback on their effectiveness.

This should be one more profound and vital distinctive of Christ-centered governance: we hold our board roles loosely, to the glory of God. And when we serve on boards that do not have term limits, we are especially thoughtful and prayerful about our tenure.

QUESTION: According to BoardSource’s hot-off-the-press 2012 Nonprofit Governance Index, 27 percent of boards surveyed do not have term limits. Whether you have term limits or not, does your board have an annual self-assessment process that helps you address the dead wood syndrome?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Good Thing Pilots Are Life-long Learners!


If you’re on your fair share of airplanes every year, you probably don’t worry much about pilot competencies. To fly, pilots must be life-long learners. They study. They train. They’re tested. They’re certified. As stewards of passenger safety, they get it.

At your next board meeting, bring a Starbucks card (or some other incentive) and ask everyone to stand. Then go through this list—until your last man or last woman is standing.

Life-long Learner Pop Quiz:
#1. Remain standing if you are grateful that pilots are life-long learners.
#2. Remain standing if you think your pharmacist, dentist and doctor should be life-long learners.
#3. Remain standing if you think board members (stewards of God’s work) should be life-long learners.
#4. Remain standing if, as a board member, you have invested a minimum of 10 hours this year in governance life-long learning (books, articles, audio resources, workshops, conferences, etc.).

If anyone is still standing…keep going:
#5. Remain standing if you have invested 20 or more hours this year in governance life-long learning.

I facilitated this drill earlier this year at the ECFA Governance Forum and while 95 percent of the room sat down after Question #4, there were some sterling stewards still standing.  The last man standing had invested more than 50 hours (and it was only March!) in becoming more effective at his governance role.

1 Corinthians 4:2 reminds us that to be a steward it is required that one be found trustworthy.

In his quick-reading book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, Bill Hybels, the board chair of Willow Creek Association and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church (both are ECFA accredited), has pointed counsel for CEOs, senior pastors and board chairs. Chapter 29 is titled “Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team.” (Read my review of Axiom.)

So, by example, inspire your board members to be trustworthy stewards as they hear from God and pilot the direction of your ministry.

QUESTION: How much time have you invested this year in being your best in the governance of your Christ-centered organization?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2 Big Differences: Decision-making and Conflict Resolution

In my last blog I asked, “Is there a difference between how a ‘secular’ board governs and how a ‘Christ-centered’ board governs?”

In my opinion: absolutely! Here are just two thoughts on this:

#1. Governance Decision-making. Secular governance literature has numerous ideas for effective decision-making—most of them excellent. But for the Christ-follower, decision-making without a spiritual discernment component is empty and often misguided. For more on this, read my review of Ruth Haley Barton’s latest book, Pursuing God’s Will Together.

#2. Conflict Resolution. When two or more people serve together, it’s not if you’ll have conflict, but when. Secular models of conflict resolution are helpful, yet for the Christ-follower, Matthew 18 is the gold standard. Check out the Christ-centered resources at Peacemaker Ministries (an ECFA accredited organization), including “The Slippery Slope of Conflict.”

According to Peacemaker Ministries, “The key to changing the way we deal with conflict is the gospel—the good news that God made peace with us and between us by sending his Son to die for our sins and give us new life through his resurrection (Col. 1:19-20; Eph. 2:14-16).”

QUESTION: What are other factors that clearly indicate the difference between how a “secular” board governs and how a “Christ-centered” board governs?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Christ-centered Gap Between CEOs and Board Members?

Is there a difference between how a “secular” board governs and how a “Christ-centered” board governs?
The ECFA 2012 Governance Survey asked that question and the results are just in today.

CEO Responses:
   --Yes: 91.5%
   --No:   3.1%
   --I don’t know: 5.4%

Board Chair Responses:
   --Yes: 64.3%
   --No:   7.1%
   --I don’t know: 28.6%

Board Member Responses:
   --Yes: 66.0%
   --No:   6.3%
   --I don’t know: 27.7%

One thing is clear—34 to 35 percent of ECFA board chairs and board members said either “no” or “I don’t know,” while only 8.5 percent of CEOs checked those boxes.

In my next blog, I’ll weigh in on this subject (it’s important!)—but what do you think? By the way, the Executive Summary of ECFA’s 2012 survey will be available in October. Participants included the CEOs, board chairs and board members of ECFA accredited organizations. Almost 1,600 CEOs and board members participated in this survey, the second year of the survey.

QUESTIONS: Is there a difference between how a “secular” board governs and how a “Christ-centered” board governs?  Is there a significant gap between what you believe and what others believe? Why?