Normally the primary responsibility of a church board is very focused — to ensure that the mission of the church is being accomplished. To engage this responsibility, however, the board must exercise active leadership and not maintain a passive role in the leadership of the church. In taking hold of this responsibility a church board will act with due care and attention to the role of the Lead Pastor.
But how is a church board to shift from a passive approach to an active approach and provide the missional leadership the church requires? I think one of the key steps to take is to focus on developing the church’s overall capacity to achieve its mission. If the Board knows what the mission is, then the Board also needs to give attention to developing the resources necessary to fulfill that mission. Five capacities are crucial and require a Board’s sustained engagement if it is going to exercise the kind of active leadership that will promote mission fulfillment:
1. Spiritual Capacity: the ability of the church community and especially its leaders, to live passionately and obediently for Christ, empowered daily by His Spirit. The Board will monitor as consistently as possible the spiritual health of the congregation and take whatever action is necessary to sustain its vitality.
2. Leadership Capacity: the ability of staff, board leaders and other volunteer leaders to inspire through spiritual example and clear vision, prioritize, make decisions, provide direction and innovate. Good, competent leadership is essential. The Board has to assume responsibility to insure that the church has such leadership and has specific strategies in place to develop it further.
3. Adaptive Capacity: the ability to monitor, assess, respond to and stimulate internal and external changes. It is the Board that has responsibility to be monitoring the internal and external environment to anticipate change and prepare well for it. It must govern with an eye to the future, not the past or present.
4. Management Capacity: ensure the effective and efficient use of organizational resources. The Board has responsibility to insure that the church’s goals are being met. If this is not happening, then it is the Board that must exercise leadership to remedy things.
5. Technical Capacity: the ability to implement all of the key organizational functions and deliver programs and services as defined by the agency’s mission, vision and values. Does the church have the systems necessary (i.e. facilities, financial information, computer/phone systems, communication systems, insurance, employee policies, risk management processes, etc.) to accomplish its mission well?
Each of these ‘capacities’ represents a critical opportunity for mission growth and an active board leadership will be giving due and constant attention to each of these matters. Where deficiency is discerned, then this becomes an area of Board work.