Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Churches exist to help people and make a difference in their community and beyond.
This commitment to a mission drives a ministry and dictates church board behaviors.
However, churches have life cycles like any other organization, and their long-term success directly correlates to the strength of the board that oversees them.
Effective church boards are made up of people passionate about the organization, its mission, and the people it serves.
These governing boards strengthen the organization through intentional, strategic focus and diligent financial oversight.
This oversight requires a commitment to challenging the status quo, pursue continual improvement, growth, and development.
Board members are legally responsible for overseeing the organization as it pursues its mission and provides direction and financial management of its resources.
8 Things Effective Church Boards Do Well
1. Train Board Members
Effective board members require training.
New board members don’t know what they don’t know, so focused training is important.
Board training can be done in a few ways.
There are structured training programs that new board members can attend.
Or there are several good books that help new board members understand their roles and legal responsibilities.
Training topics might include:
Board Governance: Board members learn about board structures, bylaws, and legal responsibilities.
Mission, Vision, and Values. Board members need to understand the church’s Mission, vision, and core Values and the importance of board decisions that support the mission.
Strategic Planning – The importance of strategic planning, goal setting, and how to monitor progress.
Board Roles: Understand the various Board Roles and specific responsibilities of each.
Financial Management: Becoming familiar with nonprofit Financial Management and financial reporting, which may include reading financial reports and the board’s role in financial oversight.
Self-Assessment: Effective boards understand the importance of conducting self-assessments of governance. This might include continuing education and professional development.
2. Clarify Direction
A church board helps to clarify direction and purpose by defining why the organization exists and what it hopes to achieve.
This is done by developing a mission, vision, and values statement that steers all planning and decision-making.
This clarification is communicated to all stakeholders of the church – employees, volunteers, and members to ensure everyone is working toward the same goal.
3. Develop A Plan
Effective boards have a strategy and plan for achieving their mission.
This is done by developing a strategic plan and annual church goals that support the mission and vision of the organization.
This planning process factors in accountability for accomplishing goals and holds parties responsible for achieving desired results.
4. Ensures Accountability
Getting things done can be challenging in ministry because there are many unpredictable variances on any given day.
For instance, life happens, and when a member is in crisis, the church stops to help. This is what it’s there for.
However, the board is responsible for challenging leadership and holding the organization accountable for fulfilling job responsibilities.
They do this by studying board reports, asking clarifying questions, and pushing past barriers that deter them from accomplishing ministry goals.
The church board keeps a pulse on the organization by challenging things that don’t line up with its strategy and diligently keeping the focus on its core mission.
5. Provide Financial Oversight
An annual audit of financial reports and accounting practices must be done, and donors should receive an annual report showing income, expenses, and a financial statement.
6. Drives Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is how organizations get better at what they do.
The board should assess the organization’s performance to ensure it fulfills its strategic plan and improves its internal processes.
This is done by appraising the organization’s leadership and ability to lead others and achieve the strategy.
This assessment also looks for ways to improve church programs and operations by using quality tools to identify areas of focus and develop improvement plans.
For instance, if the youth program in your church is losing kids, you might want to figure out why. This might entail observing youth meetings, conducting focus groups with the teenagers, or seeking help from an objective third party.
Sometimes, it can mean that there is a need to further develop youth leaders or change youth leadership.
7. Maintain Integrity
Every organization should operate with the highest ethical standards and behavior.
However, the church should lead by example and be held to the highest standard.
A church board should hold itself accountable for maintaining the integrity and high ethical standards of the organization.
This includes developing a conflict-of-interest statement that all leadership adheres to.
And ensuring that all decisions are made with the organization’s best interest in mind.
When conducting church-related business with family, friends, or church members, it is important to follow conflict-of-interest guidelines.
This includes providing multiple bids for comparison and documenting all business relationships and their value to the church. By doing so, we ensure transparency and ethical decisions in spending church resources.
You might also want to check out ECFA Integrity Standards to inspire your board.
8. Support Its Leadership
Church leaders carry the weight of the day-to-day operation and need support.
Effective boards support church leadership by helping them do their job.
This is done by assisting in removing obstacles that hinder organizational progress and ensuring the necessary resources are available to support the mission.
For instance, if the church has a goal to develop a community feeding program, the board needs to ensure that adequate resources (people, time, and money) are available to complete the goal.
Church board governance is the backbone and driving force of effective church management, development, and growth.
Training and developing the governing board is one way to help equip them for this critical responsibility.
There is a great book on board governance to help you get started!