In North America the summer season runs from June to August in most places. Institutions enter into vacation mode for the months of July and August and the same phenomenon affects churches. Frequently the annual church board schedule will not plan for meetings during July and August. So after the June meeting a church board chair can be excused for breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to several months of release from some of the chairperson’s normal responsibilities and perhaps other unexpected pressures.
No doubt some relief time is good, because it allows a leader to decompress, regroup, and gain perspective. It gives opportunity for the soul to “breathe,” the mind to reassess, and the emotions to regain balance. There will also be opportunity for the ELC to meet informally around the barbecue with spouses and deepen relationships, help spouses to discern and share some of the burden of leadership, express appreciation to spouses for their patience and prayer support, etc.
What are some of the key things that a church board chair should be giving attention to during these summer months?
1. Make sure you take some break, even if it is only two or three weeks. A little bit of distance can help you to put things into perspective. When you do return to the issues, often some fresh insights will emerge.
2. Planning the board’s work for the coming year should be a primary focus. Of course, to do this well will require some consultation with the lead pastor so that you have some clarity about the administration’s goals and strategies for the next year, particularly what additional staffing or key expenditures might be anticipated (e.g. major facility overhaul, etc.). This will help you to discern the best way to facilitate board engagement with emerging issues and opportunities. You should also give some consideration to which policies need to be reviewed and updated and where in the annual board agenda such reviews can be scheduled. Try to anticipate which theological issues might challenge the congregation in the coming months so that the board members can take the lead in gaining direction and resolution.
3. The summer is a good time to do some evaluation. First, this should be directed to your own role as board chair. Be honest with yourself and do a self-evaluation of your own leadership. Where do you need to improve your leadership capacity as board chair in the next year, if the board is to become more effective in its collective leadership? Don’t be afraid to consult with two or three key board members about this and get their input. You probably will receive some very helpful advice, if you are willing to listen with a humble spirit. Second, there is the evaluation of the board in its collective work. Perhaps there was a formal evaluation done in the previous few months, but you have not had time to digest the results. Regardless, you need to do your own evaluation and consider what aspect of board operations, board policy, or board education that you think the board should tackle in the next twelve months. You may even need to give serious attention to your own future as board chair and what God may be signalling to you about this role.
4. Take time to reflect upon the individual board members and their level of engagement. Whom do you need to encourage to sustain their board involvement? Whom should begin some frank discussions about moving off the board? And whom do you see emerging in the congregation as potential new board members? The summer season might be a good time to initiate some coffee discussions to probe and encourage.
5. Finally, give some attention to the state of the congregation. What are you observing about its spiritual tone, its engagement with the mission, its excitement about serving as a Kingdom community? What must the board do in the next twelve months to advance the congregation’s mission and enable the congregation to flourish? Once you have discerned some key ideas, share them with the lead pastor and see whether you both are observing the same things.
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” according to Gershwin. However, for church board chairs the summer months can be the most important time in the year for laying the foundations for a productive season of church board leadership. The chair has to seize the opportunity.