Thrive With Four Kingdom Values

Set a high standard for the board and the board members.

 

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

 

The place God calls you to is the place where your
deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. [1]

Frederick Buechner

 

 


A CEO friend, Chuck, once told me, “I don’t have the spiritual gift of board meetings.” He expressed what many ministry leaders feel.

Too often, board members do not thrive at board meetings because one or more of these dysfunctions are present:

  • Board members with inadequate training for their board responsibilities
  • Board members with gifts ill-suited for the primary role of governance
  • Board members with fuzzy understanding of board/staff roles
  • Board members with personal agendas—and an inability to discern God’s agenda
  • Board members with limited theological acumen
  • Board members with unhealthy character issues and insufficient grace

No board is perfect, but the best boards set a high standard for board service. When the right people—with the right motives and God-honoring character—serve graciously together, there will be a minimum amount of dysfunction and a maximum amount of spiritual fruit and impact. Board members and CEOs will thrive in board meetings as the Holy Spirit deploys their spiritual gifts and their God-designed personalities and strengths.

So what would that look like in your boardroom? We believe that a nominee to the Board Member Hall of Fame would demonstrate these Kingdom values:

  1. DISCERNMENT: Calling and Passion. Look around your board table. Would every person affirm that God has called them to board service? John Pellowe writes, “The Holy Spirit can nudge us towards those good works that God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10); this nudging is usually described as a call.” He adds, “God’s individual call is normally in line with the gifts that you already have.”[2]

Pellowe also cautions those who consider ministry and board service—that if the “mission is not closely tied to your interests, your board service will be a draining experience…”[3]

Steve Macchia believes that “Passion is the fuel that keeps the engine of your vision alive.” He suggests you answer this fill-in-the-blank question: “What energizes me the most is my passionate concern for ____________.”[4] Is board service and the mission of the ministry extremely high on your passion list—or did you agree to serve without regard to calling and passion?

Boards must be highly competent in spiritually discerning God’s voice—as individuals and as a board. Who should serve on the board? Who should chair the board? What is God’s agenda? According to David McKenna, “Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes with spiritual maturity. It may well be the gift that defines Christ-centered leadership.”[5]
 

  1. DEPLOYMENT: Spiritual Gifts. The reason Chuck said he didn’t have the spiritual gift of board meetings is because he didn’t! (We know. We know. “Attending board meetings” is not a spiritual gift—but keep reading.) Frankly, Chuck was not cut out to be a leader—and he was savvy enough to recognize it.

Not everyone is gifted to serve in leadership as a board member. According to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 (and elsewhere), God has given every believer one or more spiritual gifts. Paul encouraged Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you” (1 Timothy 4:14 NASB).

Thriving boards are astute at deploying the spiritual gifts around the board table—and discerning what gifts are needed. The best boards inspire members to leverage their God-given gifts. The best boards don’t just fill board slots by inserting square pegs in round holes.

While we recommend that the CEO not serve as board chair—for many reasons—one reason is that the CEO is sometimes not spiritually gifted or temperamentally equipped to serve as the chair. If the CEO is also the board chair, he or she is often placed squarely in the middle of challenging, and sometimes contentious, debates. For a serious gut check on the crucial role of board chair, read David McKenna’s powerful book—just 119 pages—Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry.[6]
 

  1. COMMITMENT: Faithful and Fruitful. Throughout this book you’ll read dozens of board best practices and expectations. It may be overwhelming to the first-time board member. But don’t quit! 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (NIV).

Ensure that the position description and expectations for board members are in writing—and reviewed at least annually. As we suggest in Lesson 6, use a Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement and create a holy moment for the board at the first board meeting of the year. Connect the dots between faithfulness and fruitfulness—and review God’s blessing on the ministry over the past year, at least in part, because of the faithfulness and diligence of your board.
 

  1. ENJOYMENT: Experience God’s Pleasure. Board service can be immensely enjoyable. Honest! Our friend and colleague, Mike Pate, reminds us frequently that his favorite day of the month is the day there is a board meeting.

When board members leverage their spiritual gifts[7] their strengths (see the Discover Your CliftonStrengths assessment[8]), and their God-given social styles (analytical, driving, amiable, or expressive),[9] they experience extraordinary fulfillment and joy. That’s God’s plan for us! If board service feels draining and debilitating for you, then consider another area of service “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” as Frederick Buechner so aptly put it.[10]

 “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” said Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.[11] Imagine if on the way home from your board meeting, every (every!) board member exclaimed, “When I engage in the board’s holy work—I feel God’s pleasure!”
 

Discernment, deployment, commitment, and enjoyment— reflect on these four Kingdom values as you inspire people to serve on your board. Those are Board Member Hall of Fame values.

 

BOARDROOM LESSON
_______________________________

Invite people to serve on your board who have
high passion for your mission and ministry—
and who discern board service as a holy calling.
Inspire board members to leverage their spiritual gifts and strengths—
or their experience will be draining and joyless.
 

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Discern: What Kingdom values are foundational to your board’s theology and philosophy of governance?

  2. Deploy: Provide board members with assessment resources to identify spiritual gifts, strengths, and social styles—and then leverage the unique giftedness of each board member.[12]

  3. Declare: Raise the bar—and create the expectation that all board members will experience God’s pleasure as they serve.
     

 

Prayer

Lord, like Eric Liddell’s testimony, “I believe that God made me
for a purpose, but He also made me fast,”
[13]
show each of our board members their God-given purpose. Amen.
 

 

 

[1] Frederick Buechner is quoted in Stephen A. Macchia, Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to a Well-Ordered Way (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 54.

[2] John Pellowe, Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries (Elmira, ON, Canada: Canadian Council of Christian Charities, 2012), 4–5.

[3] Ibid., 4.

[4] Stephen A. Macchia, Crafting a Rule of Life, 62.

[5] David L. McKenna, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry (Winchester, VA: ECFAPress, 2017), 71

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bruce Bugbee, What You Do Best in the Body of Christ: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, Personal Style, and God-Given Passion, rev. and exp. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005).

[8] Visit https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com for the Discover Your CliftonStrengths assessment, previously available as StrengthsFinder 2.0 in book form and online. A faith-based resource, recommended by John C. Maxwell, is also available: Albert L. Winseman, Donald O. Clifton, and Curt Liesveld, Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community, exp. ed. (New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2008).

[9] For more on the four social styles, visit http://tracom.com/social-style-training/model or read the faith-based resource, How to Deal With Annoying People: What to Do When You Can’t Avoid Them by Bob Phillips and Kimberly Alyn (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2005)

[10] Frederick Buechner is quoted in Macchia, Crafting a Rule of Life, 54.

[11] Chariots of Fire directed by Hugh Hudson (1981: United Kingdom: Warner Home Video, 2005), DVD.

[12] For more resources, access and download “Tent Cards and Tools for Leveraging Board Member Strengths” in Dan Busby and John Pearson, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time Saving Solutions for Your Board (Winchester, VA: ECFAPress, 2019), 217-23.

[13] Chariots of Fire directed by Hugh Hudson.

 

From More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: Effectiveness, Excellence, Elephants!, 2019, 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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