Not all church board meetings are created equal! Some are more significant than others, and this applies to the first meeting of the new ministry year.
In North America the end of August normally signals the end of the “summer” season. Children return to school, vacations for families conclude, businesses re-energize, and retirees consider fall vacations. It is a time of new beginnings. If you live and serve in another part of the world, the seasons will have a different rhythm.
Church boards come together in September after a summer break. For a time the board members have shoved the pressing matters of board leadership to the back of their personal agendas, for the most part, but hopefully not in their prayer agendas. Now they realize as September approaches that the challenges of the previous year remain and have to be addressed in some way. How can a church board chair help board members prepare for this new ministry year and re-engage quickly, effectively, and with high motivation?
Within the dynamics of a church board the re-engagement by individual members will follow different patterns. Depending on the situation, some will come reluctantly because they know some tough decisions will have to be made. Others will come with renewed vigour and determination to carry forward God’s work. Then a few might participate with a bit of indifference for a variety of reasons. So it will probably take one or two board meetings for the members to begin functioning effectively as a team. It is important that the initial meetings give some time to prayer, reflection on the importance of the work that a church board does, and relationship building. A spiritual tune-up might be necessary. You might even take out the church board member role description and review the board members of their responsibilities together. This can help to get everyone back on the same page.
As the church board chair you probably have continued to engage the issues during the summer season. So in your case it takes little effort to get up to speed on the key questions. However, other board members have been out of the loop for some weeks. So you would be wise to take a bit of time in the agenda of the first meeting and give a bit of “state of the congregation” review. It is quite possible, for example, that during the summer months one or two staff members have made decisions about their futures and have signaled their intention to seek employment elsewhere. Stuff happens, even in the summer months, and not all board members will have awareness of the changes that have occurred.
It would probably be helpful in this review also to remind the board members of the key issues that they must address together in the next ten months. In other words give them a sense of the big agenda items which will enable the congregation’s mission to go forward. As chair you might even suggest some prioritization. If some of these issues have already been delegated to board committees for consideration, remind the committees of their assignments and due dates. This will encourage accountability. If some board leadership positions remain unfilled, then it would be good at the first meeting to address this question. Provide opportunity for the lead pastor to share something of his vision for the coming year in terms of ministry focus.
Finally, take a few minutes to discuss risk management questions with the board. What new threats have arisen over the summer that might jeopardize board initiatives or influence the congregation? Perhaps the financial situation has weakened or a staff resignation has generated some stir in the congregation or program implementation has gone awry. Whatever the risks might be, it is incumbent upon you as chair to inform the board members to the best of your knowledge.
Beginning a new season of ministry together can be an opportunity to generate new momentum and enthusiasm for the congregation’s mission. Progress achieved in the previous year can be the catalyst for new advances. If there are some special board development experiences being planned over the next ten months, remind the board of the dates and encourage their full response (i.e. board retreat, board development workshops, etc.).