What Should a Governing Board Be Good At?

Many people dread board meetings, and for good reason. Boards spend too much time passively receiving information and transacting routine business. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some boards have interesting meetings. Clergy and lay board members feel their time and energy has been well used. How do they do it?

Meeting and Voting Online

Glitchy video and scratchy sound still spoil a lot of online meetings, but the technology gets better all the time. Meeting “virtually” by audio and video can be convenient, but it raises some new issues and exacerbates some old ones, especially for governing boards. Boards that want to meet and vote online need to sharpen and update their policies and skills.

The Problem with Meetings

by Susan Beaumont
The problem with meetings in congregation is that they focus on building and sharing knowledge. What if we focused on cultivating collective wisdom instead?
Think about the agenda in your typical church meeting. Staff meetings, board meetings, and committee meetings all incorporate the same elements. I tell you what I know, you tell me what you know, we consult with outside sources that know, and then based on our shared knowledge we wrestle our way toward decision making. If we can’t all agree, then majority rules. And most of this happens in the form of sharing and receiving reports, making motions, and approving actions. Boring, not very creative, and certainly not soulful!

Non-financial Conflicts of Interest

by Sarai Rice
At first glance, this is a topic only a governance geek could love. But before you dismiss what follows as inevitably boring, let’s consider this topic in the form of difficult situations your congregation may have already faced. For instance … read more…

Who Owns a Congregation?

by Dan Hotchkiss
When I ask members of a governing board about the board’s job, someone (frequently a lawyer or a banker) often uses an obscure word that speaks rather deeply to the nature of the board’s role: “The board is a fiduciary.”
And what might a fiduciary be? read more…

What to Say When Your Side Loses

by Dan Hotchkiss
“The ayes have it.” Curt put down his hand and looked across the table at Priscilla, who had also voted “no.” Priscilla smiled, shrugged, and joined the chatter about how to ask the membership to ratify the board’s decision. Curt was not smiling. By five to two, the board had voted to tear down the ladies’ parlor to make room for a new classroom wing. Luckily, the congregation also needed to approve the project. Curt was thinking about how to make his arguments again. read more