Other practices Addington suggests can preserve the time of the board for the most important issues:
a. have regular reports circulated in advance and expect the board members to have read them prior to the meeting so that they can be received quickly;
b. put the most important decisions at the beginning of the agenda;
c. if an issue is raised, avoid trying to resolve it immediately. Rather assign to a staff person, an existing committee or an adhoc committee to research, review and recommend to the board a preferred action;
d. always have a written agenda and one that is circulated well in advance;
e. keep to the timelines;
f. adopt good rules to guide the board in its decision-making process, i.e. healthy, creative dialogue;
g. keep good communication flowing to staff and congregation. At the end of a meeting determine what needs to be communicated to whom and by whom.
He also suggests that a church board meet twice a month — “once for business and once for prayer” (172). I can understand why he proposes this. However, there is a downside. It suggests strongly to the board members that their business meetings are not ministry or shepherding occasions. This perspective should never be allowed to develop. An alternative might be to have every third meeting oriented to ministry evaluations and future planning, with opportunities for prayer and healthy interaction. If the board wants to make a decision at such a meeting, let it happen.
The final section of this chapter emphasizes the need for boards to concentrate on direction and accountability, and staff to focus on design and implementation. This becomes very important as churches change in size and complexity. In smaller churches where board members also are leading ministries, they need to remember which “hat” they are wearing when they are at a board meeting. If they are reporting on their ministry responsibility, then they are not doing this as a board member, but as a ministry leader. In most cases they should be reporting about their ministry responsibilities under the leadership of the senior pastor.
8. Structure Matters. The principles in this chapter deserve careful review by every church board. If these principles were implemented a considerable amount of church frustration and dysfunction would be resolved. One of Addington’s key points is that while leadership responsibilities are explained in the New Testament, there is little instruction on governance structure (181). Yet many Christians consider their church’s bylaws to be equivalent to Scripture.
The New Testament indicates one leadership group, usually defined as elders, is entrusted by the congregation with its spiritual leadership. It probably is not important what we call this leadership group, but a local church should only have one appointed leadership group, i.e. board, that is entrusted with authority to make defined decisions. Further, the bylaws should specify what decisions the congregation must make (e.g. appointment or dismissal of senior leaders, budget, financial borrowing, facility construction and property). Congregationalism means that the congregation has the ultimate authority as defined in the bylaws. It does not mean that every member has voice in all matters.
Addington points out that “structures serve mission.” Further, bylaws should be “kept as simple and brief as possible”(190). Keep elected positions to a minimum (e.g. leadership board, treasurer, clerk, nominating committee). Give the leadership board the authority to create or change whatever ministry teams are necessary to accomplish the church’s vision. Governance structure must reflect the size of a local church.
At the end of the chapter Addington provides “an example of [a] healthy governance system” (196). I would suggest one change to this schematic. The relationship between the leadership board and the ministry team should run through the senior pastor position. If multiple staff are in a reporting/accountability relationship to the board, this will create conflict within the ministry staff. All ministry staff should report to the leadership board through the senior pastor’s office. Addington indicates this (189), but his schematic does not reflect this clearly.
I would also suggest that the leadership board is one of the primary ministry teams in the church and needs to regard itself as such.