As an executive director of a Christian ministry or non-profit, you have the opportunity to work with a board of directors. In my experience, board members come from all sorts of different backgrounds: business owners, business executives, housewives, teachers, and the list goes on. Engaging a board with such diversity can be challenging to work.
So, the best question to ask ourselves is, how do we do this well? In this blog I offer you some insight and encouragement. I know working with a board can be frustrating. But I also know when it’s done well, it can be a rich experience for everyone involved. It can also move the mission from idea to action by providing the protection, encouragement and wisdom it was established to provide.
Let’s start by first remembering what the role of our non-profit board is:
- To protect the mission of the ministry.
- To live by the governing values of the ministry.
- To hire and monitor the performance of the executive director.
- To ensure the organization has the necessary resources to fulfill its mission; along with monitoring and developing policies as necessary.
- To help the ministry accomplish an agreed upon vision.
As a leader, you set the tone from the outset. This means striking a balance that allows you to do your work while productively collaborating with your board in the best interest of the ministry.
When we don’t strive to build a healthy partnership with our board, it tends to lead to micro-management by the board. It also allows for a strong temptation to undermine and act without permission or approval by the executive leadership. This becomes an exhausting cycle. Productivity and morale both suffer while the internal fight becomes the focus and the goals of the vision take a back seat.
5 Qualities of a Thriving Board
To avoid this cycle, or to stop an ongoing one—focus on what matters most—people. My encouragement to you as a director: build relationships with your board chair and other key leaders of the board, just like you would with a major donor. Create an atmosphere where your vision can thrive and you can achieve ministry goals. An atmosphere where:
- Mission Is Everything
Make sure the organization has a clear view of the ministry’s mission and the members of the board and staff will work together to protect that mission now and in the future. So many of our ministries change mission statements with each new director. Please stop! Everyone should sign a document that says we will protect and serve the ministry’s mission. This important agreement keeps everyone focused on one thing.
- Everyone Is Committed to Giving Time
All members should attend Board meetings and the time spent at these meetings should monitor progress. Make sure all necessary materials get to board members in advance of board meetings. And use the meetings to build a shared vision with your board to define the direction of the ministry. Also use this time to give your team benchmarks to achieve and track success.
- Everyone Is Committed to Giving Their Talents
Directors, get to know your board members and their talents and gifts. Inside of your diverse board of directors, God has given you amazing resources that can help your ministry accomplish its vision. Spend time with each board member encouraging them to use their talent. Lead your board, don’t wait for them to take the initiative. They have full time jobs, families and other responsibilities. You can help them see their role in the ministry’s vision.
- Everyone Is Committed to Giving Their Treasure
Remember, everything starts with leadership. So, this too, starts with you. Are you giving to the ministry you represent? Next, board members must know they cannot serve without giving of their treasure to the ministry. This must be the standard for every board member. It does not matter if the gift is $5 or $5 million—everyone must give. Because attitude will reflect leadership. If the board is not leading in this area it will reflect in the staff and even the fundraising department. Talk openly with every board member about the heart issue of giving, the power of generosity, and the multiplication you will experience after you start from within.
- Everyone Is United in Accomplishing a Vision
What creates unity in a ministry? Vision! 70% of every board meeting should be a discussion in progress of that vision. The board should be asking at each meeting “how can we help move the vision forward?” When a board is committed to this principle, Satan will not be able to stop that ministry from growing. There is great power in unity. Consistently meet with your board members and don’t take your relationship with them for granted. As your relationships strengthen, you will find that the diversity of the board is second to the shared vision that brings you unity, and that diversity will become an asset.
Leadership Challenge—Board Unity
Directors, this is a leadership challenge. That’s good news, because you are a strong leader. Don’t be afraid to apply your leadership skills toward building a strong board that works together as a team.
So, spend time cultivating trusting relationships with each board member. And focus on building a shared vision. By doing this you are putting the ground work into growing a board that can consider change and innovation for the sake of the ministry and the vision. And ultimately for the glory and honor of God.
This ground work will lead you to a place where you will serve alongside a board that understands Biblical stewardship. This board will not fear inviting others along in order to accomplish the vision you all hold.
Begin to pray today that God will build unity within your board, and commit to taking the first step toward making it happen.