The Effective Church Board. A Handbook for Mentoring and Training Servant Leaders by Michael J. Anthony. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers 2000 (originally published by Baker Book House, 1993). 301 pages.
Dr. Anthony writes as an experienced Christian educator, pastor and scholar, having taught at Talbot Seminary. His purpose in writing this book centres on a desire to help “church board members and senior pastors work together effectively” (11). It is his belief that the senior pastor carries the responsibility to train and develop effective board members. This book is now almost twenty years old and so much has changed. For example, the emerging church phenomenon has “emerged.” The “missional church” vision has shaped the perspective of many. Large churches particularly are wrestling with the application of “Policy Governance” as defined by John and Miriam Carver. Denominational structures are less rigid or authoritative. The literature on leadership has exploded and the role of pastor as leader has become a major focus of discussion. Interaction with Dr. Anthony’s ideas will recognize the timeframe in which he was writing, but acknowledge that some key things have changed.
Given this time differential, why give attention to this volume? The primary reason is simple — there are so few books devoted to developing effective church board members that each one, despite possible datedness, still deserves attention. This volume also reflects data from a survey of about 200 senior pastors and church board members, giving us a snapshot of such leadership perspectives in the early nineties. This provides some useful comparative data.
Part One defines the roles of senior pastor, church board member, attempting to define the roles of pastor, elder, deacon and deaconess. Chapter 6 provides useful guidance for developing position descriptions and includes a proposed description for the chairman of the board (in this case a deacons’ board) (83-84).
In Part Two Dr. Anthony considers fundamental issues, i.e. how a church board should function in relation to pastoral staff and what the primary responsibilities of a church board should include (defining mission statement and organizational structure, establishing goals and plans to reach those goals, conflict resolution and developing spiritual character).
The third section considers how a church board might lead through different crises. These include the resignation of a pastor, financial distress, moral turpitude, legal challenges, divisions, responding to chronic complainers, and “bringing renewal to a declining church.”
He concludes with two appendices. One relates general wisdom he gathered in his survey from pastors and board members. The second is a series of four case studies that a board can use to test and develop its capacity to respond to diverse issues.
All in all Dr. Anthony has developed and written a useful guide for church boards. However, some aspects require further exploration and perhaps careful evaluation.