Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality

By John Pearson

Note:This is No. 20 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: “Hospitality has to do with equity for each member.”

Honest…my plan for this thin, quick-reading book was to crank out five, maybe seven or eight blogs—and then move on. Not! De Pree’s wisdom is so rich—so convicting. At least we’re 75 percent on our way to page 91, so stay tuned. The end is near.

I’ve never read a governance book, blog, or paragraph that said the practice of hospitality was a key ingredient of a board chair’s effectiveness.

De Pree explains with a few reminders:
• “Asking people to sit in a circle with no table is surely a distracting and ineffective way to work…”
• “…as is putting people at a long, narrow table where they can have contact with only those adjacent to them.”

He also reminds us about the tools of hospitality: pens, writing pads, agendas, minutes, records, reports—and how they’re organized. He notes that hospitality includes attention to social needs. “Things go better with snacks, drinks, timely breaks, and no anxiety as to where the toilets are—small matters that should never become distractions.”

The spiritual gift of hospitality, according to author
Bruce Bugbee, is “the divine enablement to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter.” If you were not blessed with that spiritual gift, however, it doesn’t let you off the hook. As board chair, discern who on your board or staff is specially enabled by God to practice hospitality—and invite that person to help you create a warm and inviting board meeting environment.

In the tremendously helpful new book from
ECFAPress, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, David McKenna, reminds board chairs to sense the need “for the white space of coffee and bathroom breaks,” and “pauses for prayer before casting votes.” (Read my book review here and watch for future blogs on the board chair’s role.)

By the way, practicing hospitality is not limited to the board chair. Board members will practice God-honoring hospitality by arriving on time (with homework done), pocketing all devices, listening, engaging, speaking thoughtfully—and not leaving early. And most important—every board member (and the CEO) will learn the
spiritual gifts of colleagues around the board table—and encourage each person to leverage their spiritual gifts, their strengths, and their passions.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do we practice God-honoring hospitality before, during, and after our board meetings? How could we be more hospitable? Why does this matter?


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.