Governing Board Culture

Q. We are confident we need to address our current governing board culture, but we are not sure when and how to proceed. What do you suggest?

A. Start by stopping—stopping to take inventory of the board’s current culture. Then introduce gradual changes—one step at a time. The paradox is that when we go slow in introducing change, it positions us to fast as a group, and it models Christ in a more significant way, since no one gets left behind.

While there is no governance “success sequence” that fits all ministries, here are some insights that may be helpful:

  • Boards tend to welcome change in “seasons” of change. Boards have seasons just as ministries have seasons. It is difficult for a board to change when the board is not in a season of change. How can you discern if a board is in a season of change? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern this. A spirit of change may arrive with the retirement or terming off of some board members and the addition of a few new board members.
  • Make a list of possible governance culture changes. What are the most significant changes that the ministry could make in its governance culture? Identify them and include them on a list for planning purposes.
  • Evaluate frequency of meetings and structure of the board. Does the executive committee meet so frequently that other board members feel displaced and believe the executive committee is a “super committee?” Does the board have a large number of committees? Is there openness to reduce the number of standing committees and introduce the concept of task forces?
  • Continuous governance change only occurs with continual introspection. Even if a ministry board is performing effectively, continual review of governance practices is necessary to keep positive changes moving forward. How does your board do this? Completing a simple survey at the conclusion of each board meeting may be a good strategy.

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.