The transition between years provides opportunity for a board’s leadership to do some “future-gazing,” in preparation for the challenges that will come in the next twelve months. This is not so much an exercise in prophecy, but rather a common-sense and realistic evaluation of factors that you know will affect your organization in the next 12 to 24 months. Once you have considered the various trends, pressure points, and opportunities, it will give you a fairly decent sense of your leadership focus going forward. As a board chair, you might want to have this conversation with your lead pastor, so that you get some idea of what each of you might be anticipating.
When leaders engage in this form of thinking and analysis, they demonstrate spiritual wisdom, enhance their emotional intelligence, and direct their leadership energy most effectively. A church board chair’s most significant responsibility concerns the health and safety for the congregation. If board chairs get blind-sided by unexpected circumstances, it may damage the trust and confidence other board members have in their leadership. Since board chairs guide the board’s agenda, without a sense of what the board may need to deal with in the coming months, it will be difficult to help the board cope with new developments. Surprises can be emotionally draining and so if you can anticipate what may be coming, you can prepare yourself emotionally as a leader for additional pressure. You can also do some pre-thinking about suggestions you might make to the board as a way to respond to the developments. This helps you conserve and focus your leadership energy.
One of the common “surprises” that board chairs experience has to do with key staff changes. Now board chairs cannot always anticipate such changes accurately, but it might be wise from time to time to review the staff situation and consider who might be reaching a point of vocational change. If you are unsure, here again you can take the initiative about this in your weekly or monthly discussion with your lead pastor. Institutional financial stress often can be predicted based on changes in the congregation or other emerging factors. Helping the board anticipate these and consider pre-emptive action can reduce your personal angst and stress.
Your ability to anticipate changes requires you to be scanning the internal and external horizons of the congregation. How you do this can vary. Having coffee with various leaders in the congregation and gently probing their perspectives can be helpful. Your denominational office may publish a monthly bulletin that gives you a heads-up about emerging issues not just in the denomination, but in the larger relationship between Christianity and Culture. Perhaps there are one or two carefully chosen workshops you could attend as a way to get a sense of which way the winds are blowing. We know that corporations are using massive amounts of data to try and predict how they should develop organizationally. What data do you have access to that might help you anticipate what may be coming? This could be some combination of internal and external data.
We all know that change is coming. Leaders can be passive and let change wash over them like an unexpected Tsunami, or they can be pro-active. Developing the skill to anticipate is a necessity, if you are going to provide spiritually intelligent leadership for the board over the long run. However, anticipation, I think, is also an art form practiced in the context of constant prayer. Over the next two weeks try to find an hour or two of praying and thinking time for such “anticipating.” I think you will find it motivating and energizing.