Prioritize Prayer Over Problems

Create space for prayer—serious supplications for serious work.

 

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

 

…And dear God, help us to remain unified. Help us to remember
that few decisions are worth the divisions caused by
dominant winning or belligerent losing.
Help us to seek your glory and not ours.
Grant us the joy of arriving at adjournment closer to one another
because we are closer to you.[1]

Dan Bolin


“Where’s the prayer?”

The quarterly board meeting at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission was about to start, and that was the question that Linda Ranz, the board chair, asked Jeff Lilley, the president/CEO.

Linda: Jeff, where’s the board prayer?

Jeff: What board prayer?

Linda: You know. It’s titled “A Board Prayer,” and we read it at the last meeting. You gave copies to every board member, and we went around the board table several times, each of us reading a sentence out loud. It was powerful! So where are those copies?

Jeff was confused but enjoying every moment. Of all the issues facing the board at this meeting, his board chair was hyper-focused on prayer!

Linda: Don’t you remember? It was so powerful and such a great preamble for doing God’s work here, that we agreed to read the prayer at every board meeting!

Jeff: I’ll get the prayer—and I’ll be right back!

So they read “A Board Prayer” and were reminded, once again, that issues like reporting, mission clarity, listening, speaking, planning, and unity all require inviting the God of the Universe into the work and relationships of the board.

The following are just a few of the gems from the prayer that the board needed to hear:

  • Thank You for the many people whose lives will be influenced through our meeting—other board members, staff, members, givers, vendors, and generations yet unborn who will benefit from the decisions we make today.
  • Help me to give credit to others and take responsibility for failure and lack of progress.
  • Help us to see the issues before us from many perspectives—but ultimately from Your perspective.
  • Allow me to focus on what is being said more than how I will respond.
  • Let me use the least words, the least intensity, the least volume needed to be understood.
  • God, give me the grace to watch with dignity as my proposal fails, and give me humility when my idea meets with approval.
  • Help us to honor the past but give us the courage to abandon the methods that provided yesterday’s success but will lead to futility tomorrow.
  • Help each of us to leave this meeting with the commit­ment to speak with one voice and to support the group decisions in public and private.
  • Help us to remember that few decisions are worth the divisions caused by dominant winning or belligerent losing.

Written by Dan Bolin, the two-page prayer is now used by hundreds of boards around the world.

Linda Ranz understood ministry priorities. Not content to begin God’s work with “three points and a poem” or a clever devotional off the internet, this board chair created a boardroom culture that prioritized prayer over problems.

Hence, in addition to nominating her board chair predecessor, Andy Toles, to the Board Member Hall of Fame, we are also nominating Linda Ranz.

Linda Ranz is also representative, of course, of board chairs and board members in thousands of ministries who believe that Christ-centered governance has a boardroom distinctive that requires the right theology and serious intentionality about prayer.

John Pellowe notes that a board’s theology is key. He quotes Charles Olsen, who says that

the board of a Christian organization is the people of God in community. The group is the body of Christ, with members having varying gifts, wisdom, and functions. As such the group’s life is formed by scripture, prayer, silent waiting, witnessing, and serving. . . . The meeting will no longer be seen as a gathering of individual people with business to transact, but as the functioning of the body [of Christ].[2]

Pellowe adds, “This [inspiring theological statement by Charles Olsen] is so profound that I feel every Christian board would benefit from reading it at the beginning of every meeting.”[3]

Before you begin every board meeting, discern what you might read or pray together to invite God’s holy presence to permeate your agenda, your decisions, and your relationships.

 

BOARDROOM LESSON
_______________________________

When you take time to pray—
not perfunctory “bless us” prayers
but prayers with power and faith—
God promises to hear and act.
Encourage your board chair to make space for prayer,
for quiet, and for discerning God’s voice.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Pray: At the beginning, at the end, and frequently during your board meetings, pray!
  2. Affirm: Encourage your board chair to leave ample agenda time for planned and unplanned prayer.
  3. Read: Distribute copies of “A Board Prayer” and, going around the room until the prayer is completed, ask each board member to read one bullet point. Then in groups of two, ask each person to share one or more points that hit home.

 

Prayer

Lord, we pray—along with Dan Bolin—“Help us to see the issues before us
from many perspectives—but ultimately from Your perspective.
Align our thoughts with Your thoughts and our work with Your desire.” Amen.

 

 

[1]“A Board Prayer,” by Dan Bolin, is reprinted by permission. “A Board Prayer” is also included in the book, TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, by Dan Busby; and in the facilitator resources for the ECFA Governance Toolbox No. 3: Conflicts of Interest.

[2] John Pellowe, Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries (Elmira, ON, Canada: Canadian Council of Christian Charities, 2012), 46.

[3] Ibid., 46-47.
 

From Lessons From the Nonprfit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, 2018, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.


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.

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