Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!

By John Pearson

Note: This is No. 15 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Bob Greenleaf…taught me the advantages of a chairperson’s occasionally declaring periods of silence in meetings for reflection, for absorbing conflicting opinions, for respecting an entirely new idea. I highly recommend it.”

When is the last time your board chair called for a period of silence?

In his succinct chapter, “The Role of the Chairperson,” De Pree summarizes the duties, responsibilities, and competencies that good boards should expect of their chairpersons.

“One way to think about this,” notes De Pree, “is to see the chairperson’s role as a needs-meeting job. Just as the organization and its clients have needs to be met, so does the board itself.” And occasionally, a board needs time for silence—to hear from God.

David McKenna’s new book,
Call of the Chair, echoes the silence theme. His book brilliantly expands on the board chair’s role and devotes nine short chapters to nine specific roles:
• Missionary
• Model
• Mentor
• Manager
• Moderator
• Mediator
• Monitor
• Master
• Maestro

McKenna, author of numerous books including
Stewards of a Sacred Trust, defines “Mediator” as “guiding the board through the threats of internal and external conflict into the opportunities for resolution, management, and transformation as witness of reconciliation in the Body of Christ.”

In McKenna’s seven-step process for leading through conflict in the “Mediator” chapter, the fifth step is to contemplate. “Every intense discussion comes to a moment when members of a Christ-centered board need to exercise the spiritual discipline of stepping away from the issue and seeking the mind of God. At the call of the chair, a time of silence, a period of prayer, or a recess for solitude give board members the perspective they need.”

Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministryis a powerful book (just 119 pages, plus notes) and should be required reading, along with Max De Pree’s book, for every CEO and board chair. (Watch for my review of McKenna’s book in a future blog.)

BOARD EXERCISE: Before (way before!) you entrust the board chair position to the next “likely suspect,” discuss the high bar that both De Pree and McKenna set for the “call” of the chair.


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.