Thursday, January 31, 2019

Best Board Books #16: The Council

What does the Bible say about board governance? That’s the weighty (but short and sweet—just 106 pages) commentary on what board members can discern from biblical and historical councils, such as the Council of Moses, the Jewish Councils, the Gentile Councils, and the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15. It took three notable leaders/thinkers to tackle this topic. And beware—it’s convicting!

Book #16: 
The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance, by Gary G. Hoag, Wesley K. Willmer, and Gregory J. Henson (Order from Amazon)

Gary Hoag, Wes Willmer, and Greg Henson thoughtfully and biblically draw from deep wells of discernment about governance in this new resource from ECFAPress. Gratefully, the theology is well balanced with practicality. Example:

We believe that no governing board of a Christ-centered church or ministry wants to become a case study of disaster. No such council wants the story of their oversight to report how they morphed from governing like the Council of Moses to ruling and controlling like the Sanhedrin to maintain its place in society. The truth is, it could happen to any board.” Yikes!

The authors—with impeccable credentials from other gems like The Choice and The Sower—urge boards to practice four disciplines of what they call the “council model.” The four practices: Scripture, Silence, Sharing, and Supplication. This may seem like a no-brainer at first, but—honest now—when was the last time you experienced intentional silence in your boardroom? The Council quotes Richard Foster:

“Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way.”

Foster concludes with this poke: “We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the Spirit because it puts a stopper on that.”

The authors warn about four snares of the Sanhedrin and four pitfalls of the Gentile Councils: 1) Selecting people of status, 2) Employing a ruling and controlling posture, 3) Being lovers of money, and 4) Pride. On the latter they note, “…to preserve their grip over their people they had the smug audacity to bring forward bogus testimonies.” Whew!

Board service is a high calling but Hoag, Willmer, and Henson remind us—it can get messy. “To share Moses’ burdens meant the seventy would voluntarily inconvenience themselves and put the needs of the people ahead of their own.”

That’s not a bad board prospect recruitment pitch—to test the humility and character of possible nominees: “Maria—we ask our board members to ‘inconvenience themselves’ as they steward God’s work at our ministry.”

BOARD DISCUSSION: The authors list 20 “Hard Questions” (plus a nine-page study guide) that can be addressed one per board meeting—or multiple questions, perhaps, at a board retreat. Example: “Does the [board] have a selection process that prioritizes candidates for the role of [board member] based on Christian maturity and administrative gifting and that protects against scheming and exploitation?”

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 39, by guest blogger John Walling, “Invest ‘10 Minutes for Governance’ in Every Board Meeting.” Order The Council and ask a board member to share a 10-minute review/taste at your next board meeting.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Best Board Books #15: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (Second Edition)

Would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning? How about a board member who stopped learning? What’s the “Gold Standard Question” to ask after every board meeting? These questions and more are answered in the just published second edition of my pick for Book #15.

Book #15: 
Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, Second Edition (Dec. 2018), by Dan Busby and John Pearson
(Order from Amazon)

I confess. Recommending a book I co-authored might seem a tad promotional—but only half-promotional, maybe? Since Dan Busby wrote 20 lessons and I wrote 20 lessons, I can guarantee that at least half of the book (Dan’s half) will serve you well.

The updated Second Edition of the book is now available—with new material and fewer typos. If you missed the first edition, read my review here.

The second edition is subtitled, “40 Insights for Better Board Meetings,” and we’re confident that the format—short lessons with three action steps per lesson—will enrich your board meetings and your God-honoring governance experiences.

Lesson 3, “Break Bread, Not Relationships” (added to this second edition), reminds boards to slow down and focus on three characteristics of healthy boards:

#1. EATING With Intentionality. “Breaking bread together as a board takes time, yes, but meals also slow the pace of board meetings (a good thing) and provide time for relationship building.” We remind you that “food fuels fellowship and fellowship fuels deeper relationships.”

#2. ENJOYING deeper relationships. We quote the poignant line from Jerry and Mary White’s book, To Be a Friend: “A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.” We add, “Pray and work for that level of relationship authenticity on your board.”

And then this caveat: “While we don’t recommend stocking a board with close friends of the CEO—here’s the dilemma: healthy boards ultimately enrich relationships and thus board members do become close friends many times. That should be expected and enjoyed.”

#3. ELIMINATING all distractions. Here we address how devices (iPhones, etc.) exacerbate boardroom dysfunctions—and why some boards commit to device-free zones to keep attention focused on God’s work. We quote Dr. John J. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of the bestseller Brain Rules, who notes: “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth.”
That’s the three-point sermon in just one of the 40 lessons in the new second edition of
Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. We pray it will inspire your board!

BOARD DISCUSSION: In his classic book, Leadership Is an Art, Max De Pree warned leaders “to recognize the signals of impending deterioration.” Has your board sprinted to the agenda—and bypassed eating together and enjoying deeper relationships? Has that accelerated God’s work—or is a warning sign of impending deterioration? 

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 29, by guest blogger David Curry, “Think and Pray Outside the Box—and the County.”