Best Board Books #17: Lessons From the Church Boardroom

By John Pearson

Raise your hand if—in addition to serving on a nonprofit ministry board—you’re also serving on the board at your local church. If so…that’s good news and bad news.

Good News. Your expertise and experience from your nonprofit board is often welcomed by your pastor and church board.

Bad News. In your church board meetings, you may pick up some bad habits—and further exacerbate one of the most common church boardroom dysfunctions: micro-managing.

Book #17: Lessons From the Church Boardroom: 40 Insights for Exceptional Governance, by Dan Busby and John Pearson (Order from Amazon)

Similar to the book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, this hot-off-the-press book for church boards features 40 short lessons in 10 irresistible categories including:

Part 1: The Powerful Impact of Highly Engaged Boards

Part 2: Boardroom Tools and Templates

Part 3: Nominees for the Church Board Member Hall of Fame

Part 4: Epiphanies in the Boardroom

Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers

Part 6: Boardroom Time-Wasters, Trouble-Makers, and Truth Tellers

Part 7: Boardroom Best Practices

Part 8: Boardroom Worst Practices

Part 9: Building a 24/7 Board Culture

Part 10: Boards That Lead

Be sure to read “Lesson 8: Thrive With Four Kingdom Values”—helpful for both church and nonprofit boards. The subtitle: “Pastor Carlos said he didn’t have the spiritual gift of church board meetings!” If you’re on that church board—what would you do?

Another must-read is “Lesson 22: Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand.” Dan and I note that “Church boards have a natural gravitational pull toward issues that should be reserved for the church staff.”

Using the classic Stephen Covey story about a seminar instructor with a gallon jar, fist-sized rocks, small pebbles, sand, and water—this lesson reminds boards to address the “big rocks” first—or there will be no time or space left if you focus on the pebbles and sand issues. The two-word metaphor—when used judiciously with discernment—can be uttered by any board member when the agenda goes off course:

“Mr. Chairman—I’m wondering—is this a BIG ROCK issue?
If not, maybe the staff could address it?”

Lessons From the Church Boardroom is very, very practical—and the very short chapters will inspire your church board members to actually read the book—and focus on God-honoring governance. A friend who chairs the elder board at his church just ordered 30 copies (visit ECFAPress for bulk pricing).

The book launched this week—along with a “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentary series with 40 guest bloggers. Read the blog for Lesson 1 here, “Wanted: Lifelong Learners.”

And check out these other resources:

· Overview of the book from Your Weekly Staff Meeting eNews

· ECFA Knowledge Center: read Lesson 1 online.

· The book’s webpage (download the table of contents)

BOARD DISCUSSION: “The board is to hold the church to its biblical ministry direction… The problem for churches is that they tend to get lost in ministry minutiae and thus are sidetracked from their mission.” So how effective is your church board at focusing on its biblical mandate and “big rocks”—and avoiding conversations about pebbles and sand?

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 23, by guest blogger Steve Moore, "Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability."


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.