How do you get the most out of your Board? How do you avoid the awkward Board Meetings where issues are presented and members address surface layers because they aren’t involved in the challenges being discussed? How do you go beyond the missed expectations from one another? Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege to serve in on several Boards, advisory council roles, elder teams or on executive teams which has allowed me to see ways we haven’t led well but also ways that were led well. In that, I thought I’d share a bit of my experience and hopefully hear from others about what they think has worked to enhance their Board leadership experience.
On two of the boards, I’ve advocated a move to a Functional Board of Directors (from now on this term will also serve for elder led churches). Functional Boards means that each board member has their role defined and is clear on what is expected of them. Prior to this we operated with unclear expectations and more of a coaching role on issues that surfaced but didn’t feel this was very effective or best using the talent of the board. Here’s how that transition occurred:
1. Create Unity on the Big Picture: Usually the process begins by facilitating an offsite day using a 1-Pager (we’ve used these type of tools with churches during the MonkDev Strategy Sessions as well) to help capture vision, values, obstacles and goal type information. When we’ve done this with organizations there are times where these elements have been thought through and people easily navigate and re-center on these things and other times where this type of process is brand new, so it takes more time. Take the goals and move to the next step.
2. Bring Clarity on Strategic Initiatives: After big picture goals are agreed upon, identify 5-6 strategic initiatives that are necessary to achieve those goals. For example, one of the 1-pager goals of a non-profit was to become self-supporting and move from the founder donating a large portion of the monies. The strategic initiatives under that were many, but included increasing revenue. At this point ‘triage’ the situation to see which element if focused most keenly on would have the biggest impact on driving the initiative. In this case, sponsorship was the largest source of revenue and the most immediate to become self-supporting.
3. Create Board ‘Chair’ positions to have key responsibility over an area: In this regard their are a lot of tools, my experience comes in the form of a Quad Report (so-named because it focuses on 4 things: Role Description (Core Purpose of Role, Responsibilities, What does Success look like?), Core Strategies (how does this role’s outcomes directly feed into the strategic initiatives?), A KPI dashboard (Google KPI Dashboard) and specific goals. In our example, a Board position was created for a Sponsor Chair to oversee growing the sponsorship function and since sponsorship revenue has raised ahead of projections. The position does need to take into account that this person is often a volunteer. They should champion the vision and seek to find people who can help execute. For the non-profit there is an executive director who has worked to tackle a number of the Quad deliverables such as clearer Media Kit for potential sponsors.
Some thoughts on how this applies to a church: One of the biggest breakdown I’ve experienced with a team is unclear expectations. This process can clear this up and release elders to be the first amongst equals in the area of responsibility they are over. In my experience, we’ve had a first amongst equals who sees how all the parts are working together for the greater whole (like the Chair position of President or Chairperson). For more on eldership/leaders structure from my blog, also read: Elders – Missional Movements, Plurality of Leadership & First Amongst Equals and other posts I’ve done on Triperspectival Leadership.
Alan Hirsch argues that the church is in need to return back to the state of a permanent revolution. Christianity has become a civil religion that has lost it’s vibrancy (p 26) and moved from the apostolic people-movement Jesus created. We are entering into a season where increasingly there is organizational doubt about how we organize. See image:
As Hirsch states, “We very much believe our message but we can’t seem to deliver it as effectively as we used to, and we feel bad about it.” Unless we address these doubts, Hirsch argues that the church will continue to move to increasing doubt beyond operations to the very message itself. The issue is one of needing new wine skins. Most churches will be unable to see this need because they are within the system and suffer from “paradigm blindness”. Yet, if we don’t change we will move into deeper organizational complacency (p 36) and settle into a civil religion. The argument presented is we need to rethink two major functions, first seeing the church as an apostolic movement and secondly, seeing the need for apostolic leadership to create missional movements, that is churches that express themselves in a local context, in a city, in a region and in the World.
Have we moved into a period of operational doubt? The ‘modern’ church has been under increasing attack of late. This is the church that has flourished in a time where programs, systems and attractional woo brought many into it’s doors, even baptizing them. The question may not be the right way to approach this. One of the things that we decided at Kaleo was, “What is the best way to see the gospel flourish in our community?” It was at this time we moved from a Sunday as the primary gathering mentality to seeing Missional Communities as the organizing principle within our church. Now, we made a lot of mistakes in leading our people through this process, which I can share plenty about. This need reminded me of a session I did at the GCA Church Planting Conference in 2007 on Communication in Our Post-Christian World, where I discussed three trends that increasingly will impact the church:
1. The Cultural Shift we are Experiencing will Change Paradigms. Gen X is over 40 years old now and in positions of power and change. The postmodern view is becoming more dominant and central as the generational shift occurs. Or one of my favorite quotes from Peter Drucker in The Post Capitalist Society, [1993; page 1] says: “Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation …. within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structure, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived, and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation.”
2. Christendom is increasingly moving to the Fringes. Hirsch and the above quotes discuss this further.
3. More People in our Communities will have a Gospel Inoculation. People have heard enough about Jesus to think, I don’t know what God if any I believe in but I don’t believe in that god. Sadly, these people typically haven’t seen what it means to be a Christian.
Are you feeling these changes? How is your church addressing the shift?
I’ve just begun The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church and to say I’m excited about it is an understatement. (The book is scheduled to be released February 28th, 2012, you can pre-order it now). There are a number of reasons why this book is timely and valuable for me:
(1) I’ve felt as we sought to sought to transition Kaleo Church (and for reference, I’m going to speak about Kaleo Church Linda Vista, not the other church plants that came from KLV) that there was something missing, a DNA that wasn’t being transferred to catalyze groups to mission. Further, I see many churches who are making the transition experience the same thing. They are starting small groups but giving them the name ‘missional community’ when in fact they are not.
(2) Secondly, I know a number of people who I see as apostolic (as defined by Hirsch). Often these people don’t feel connected to a local church because with its forms and functions they don’t know how they fit in. The existing church paradigm and church structures don’t know how to handle these people. So these apostolic leaders tend to pioneer relationships and begin to gather people. Unfortunately, because they are ‘mess-makers’ (my term) they can catalyze but without others they miss the fuller missional embodiment of the church to lost people.
(2) Lastly, in the last year or so my wife and I asked the question: What would it look like to pioneer a new work working under the submission of the local Kaleo elders? (In April 2011 I asked to be released from being an elder at Kaleo because I felt called to this endeavor.) We are early on but already we have seen God do amazing things and we hope to disciple Christians toward the mess this type of work brings. Thinking through what this looks like birthed out of the local church is something I’m excited to experience first hand.
So I hope to reflect, interact and challenge ideas from The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church in the weeks and months ahead. The book is nearly 450 pages so it may take some time to process. I’m almost done reading it for a first time but hope to circle back to a blog series on ideas that strike me so stay tuned!