Within Evangelical church circles the subject of stewardship tends to focus on finances and facilities. However, the most important resources that a congregation has are people. Stewarding this resource well (the one to which we give the largest percentage of our budgets) can be referred to as “social stewardship.” The board chair and the lead pastor together share the responsibility to ensure that the staff and board members have effective, working relationships within the congregation, serving and advancing its mission and aligning their work for the good of the congregation.
In terms of social stewardship a church board chair’s concerns primarily will concentrate upon the welfare of the lead pastor, the working relationship between the board and lead pastor, and the working relationships among the board members. The stewardship of staff resources will be managed through the lead pastor, good, relevant employee policies and a clear strategy within which staff can fulfil their vocational roles with satisfaction. This will also include periodic program assessments.
A scenario where social stewardship needs to be exercised might the following. Board establishes as one of its standing committees a finance committee. One of its mandates is to assist the board in recommending a budget at the congregation’s annual general meeting. Within the staff the director of administration has the responsibility to work with the board finance committee in the preparation of the budget. When Jack, the finance committee chair, begins to work with Greg, the director of administration, some tensions occur because Jack thinks it is the finance committee’s job to prepare the budget and present it to the board. Greg, however, believes it is his role to work with the finance committee, gain their input, and then present a proposed budget to the lead pastor who in turn makes a recommendation to the board. A tug-of-war ensues as these individuals seek to protect the perceived roles of the board and the staff in this process.
It is in these kinds of situations that the board chair has to exercise leadership in stewarding the wisdom, skills, and knowledge that these individuals bring to the task, helping them find ways to work together productively. If board policy needs to change to enable this, then the board chair takes the lead in proposing alternatives for the board to consider. If the mandate of the finance committee needs clarifying, then the board chair helps the finance committee to achieve clarity. If the staff person needs to be assisted in understanding his role, then the board chair works with the lead pastor to accomplish it.
People bring personality, capacity, experience, and leadership style to their roles and leaders assist people to achieve a good balance between their responsibilities and their personal resources. The goal is to advance the organization’s mission, but to do it in a way that engages the passion, personality and expertise of the people involved for the best execution of their responsibilities.