the shape of leadership

Investing in Your Church Board

Ten leadership investments that are worth the effort

Dary Northrop on May 23, 2017

For all their differences, every church board has one thing in common: a need for leadership. Through the years, I’ve discovered that investing wisely in our Deacon Team (that is what we call it at Timberline Church) is critical to the health and stability of our team and congregation. Here are 10 leadership investments that are well worth the effort.

1. Meet regularly. We meet monthly at the church, usually the fourth Tuesday evening of the month. We provide a light meal that we order from a nearby restaurant. For the first 20 minutes or so, we simply eat and engage in conversation. This may seem like a small thing, but I have come to understand why Jesus shared so many meals with people. Eating together creates a strong bond.

Occasionally, someone hosts a home meeting and invites the spouses. After the meal, the board members go to another room and meet while the spouses visit. Then we come back and have a closing prayer time.

2. Get away together. Consider having an overnight retreat with your board members and their spouses. We have both men and women on our Deacon Team, and everyone enjoys the night away each year.

Don’t let this time of fellowship turn into a church business meeting. Go to a game, a fun park or a ropes course. Do something that will create laughter and memories. End the evening or final morning by inviting each person or couple to share personal prayer requests.

I am always amazed at how vulnerable people are when they feel safe in their environment. Take time to pray for each couple. Have others pray into their lives. Conclude by praying for the church and upcoming events.

3. Celebrate the holidays. Our Deacon Team always looks forward to our evening with spouses around Christmastime. We make it creative and different each year. Through the years, we have planned everything from formal events to fun themed parties.

4. Express thanks. An occasional handwritten note of appreciation or even an email to a board member can go a long way. Find and create ways of publicly honoring people for their service as well. Our deacons serve a three-year term and must be out for a year in between terms.

Valuing the opinions of others helps create a strong team dynamic.

Anyone who serves as a deacon for three terms receives a specially designed Timberline leadership ring at our annual business meeting. I present it to three-term deacons, as well as pastoral staff members with 10 years of service. Recipients wear the ring with great pride and loyalty.

5. Provide opportunities for personal growth. We invite and pay for our Deacon Team to attend the Global Leadership Summit from Willow Creek each year at a nearby satellite site. This enriches their lives and develops them as leaders.

6. Offer guidance. I highly recommend a job description for board members. Often, they do not know what their role really is when they initially join the team. I also do a one-hour orientation with each new deacon, discussing the expectations and responsibilities.

7. Ask questions. I always try to discover more about each member personally. Do they have children? If so, how old are they? How did the member come to faith? What are his or her hobbies? Personal information can help you find common ground and give you the ability to care for the team.

8. Pray together. Many times in our meetings, we just stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s blessing or pray for the needs before us. Don’t personally lead all the praying. I intentionally ask different deacons to lead us in prayer during these times.

9. Lead respectfully. Hear and care for each board member. I never want to push something through and have a team member feel forced into something. Valuing the opinions of others helps create a strong team dynamic.

Don’t introduce new agenda items and demand a vote immediately. Provide good clarity of vision, and set reasonable timelines for work.

10. Give your best. This group of people needs and deserves your best. Be prepared for meetings. Always show kindness and grace. God will bless a team and church that walk in unity.

The above are just a few of the many strategies you can use to invest in the members of your church board. Your investment in their leadership development will be well worth the effort.

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2017 edition of Influence magazine.

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