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How to start a board of directors

This is a follow-up to the blog about boards from a few days ago.   I’ve seen a lot of bad  boards in my day. I was fortunate to be seared by the experience of seeing several rogue boards make a mess of their oversight responsibilities.  I say “fortunate” because I vowed tha…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
This is a follow-up to the blog about boards from a few days ago.
I’ve seen a lot of bad  boards in my day. I was fortunate to be seared by the experience of seeing several rogue boards make a mess of their oversight responsibilities.  I say “fortunate” because I vowed that I’d never make those mistakes.  Probably the greatest failure was in starting the boards too quickly and without adequately training them concerning their responsibilities. Here are my brief thoughts on how to start and empower boards followed by a few sources of board failure.
Initiating New Boards
  • Only invite people you trust to the board. Candidates need to have proven themselves trustworthy over time. You need to have had some experience with them.
  • The networking process necessary for a new board takes two years of concerted effort.
  • A rushed board recruitment process results in diluting vision and poor
    stewardship of resources.  The devil says “hurry,” God operates by
    giving a sense of peace.
  • Boards should be assembled by the chief stakeholders (see my blog Thursday on that) who have experience in the art of assembling a board. If you don’t have experience, get counsel from others.
  • Staff or board members interested in having input in assembling a
    board should first seek training.  In case of a time crunch:  set up
    boards where members have a one year tenure.  Positions should be
    offered using stakeholder analysis.  Established trust relationships
    are essential to preserve integrity of vision and stewardship of staff
    and assets.
Board Responsibilities
  1. Stewardship of vision:  Annual evaluation and re-focusing
  2. Stewardship of financial resources: Establish and evaluate budgets & fiscal policy
  3. Administrator accountability:  Quarterly report, annual evaluation
  4. Giving:  Either time or money (both would be nice)
  5. Exercising influence:  Mobilize resources by using influence in own networks
  6. PR:  Acting as a communication link to own community

Sources of Board Failure

  • When decisions are not bathed in prayer.
  • When a board recruitment process has been rushed.
  • When stakeholder analysis has not been thorough.  Or is not embraced.
  • When board members are unclear as to their fiduciary responsibility.
  • When trust doesn’t exist between individual board members or administrative staff.
  • When the board becomes involved in administration rather than vision.

Comments (14)

  • Seriously?! Jane and I began researching how to set up a board of directors today!! This is truly a God send!! Thanks for this post.

  • Michael and Tony,

    Great questions and issues. I’ll be sharing more about board member responsibility and stakeholder analysis in the upcoming two blogs.

  • I hear you seth!
    I have had a hard time getting my board together as well!

    And a mentor of mine is a Vetnam veteran. He helped shape my life!!
    Radical people- Thats what the world needs!

    God bless

  • I.m concerned about our church that has 12 board members of which 6 are paid staff. It seems that we have a clear conflict of interest, especially concerning reviewing the staff performance and approval of compensation.

    Thank you for your assistance.

  • I really enjoyed your comments. I know I have learned the hard way through business experiences. I guess that I have been quite naive and want to think the best of people to learn quickly that it is not what everyone else thinks. It has caused challenges. I have been greatly concerned about finding a board and doing it right. Thank you for your input. Do you have any suggestions on where to go to educate myself about a board?

  • What is or should be the role of the pastor regarding the board of Directors? Should the pastor be a board member? Should the pastor have signatory rights to the Church bank account. What should be the role of a pastor’s spouse regarding the Board of Directors as well?

  • Rick,

    Good questions. Best guy to answer them I know is Frank Viola. I’ll email you something.

  • i am pastor of a very new church- an overgrown Bible study group. my wife and i are the only corporate board members. can we apporve a housing allowance or do we need other board members to do it?

  • Have been on the board of directors for many years.
    Recently, I have acquired the treasury position because of the former treasurers death.
    I am finding it quite difficult, if not impossible, to find members that I am finding competent to fulfill a position of being a board member.
    Many seem to have no commitment or ambition to want a responsibility that involves their time and effort.
    The law is starting to impose many more regulations upon churches, requiring more directors.
    What I am apprehensive about is electing a board member that has no vision for the salvation of souls and growth of the believer, but a more superficial and controlling approach to the church operations.
    Any advice?

  • Jim – it’s not easy! We draft our board members into an advisory board, get to know them, and then move them up to board status. It takes a lot of time.

  • Thank you,
    I’ve been wondering how many people should be on the board?
    I am the Pastor, can i be on the board with my Wife?
    Who should select the board.

    • Boards vary in size. When it is a small organization, it may be better to focus on a small number of trusted people. Look at the qualifications for elder in the Bible.

  • seth – this a very helpful series for me. i recently started serving on the elder team for our church in a ‘intern’ type of manner. three other men and i are doing this internship for one year to see how we like it, board dynamics, etc. so these posts are some great perspective.

    question – could you talk more about the responsibility of a board member and them giving time/money? have you ever run into an issue of a board member giving X amount of money and then believing that because of that, they should have some kind of preference? could that be an issue?

    thanks – good stuff!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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