“Biblical board meetings? You have got to be kidding me! The Bible doesn’t say anything about church board meetings, let alone board meetings with all the power struggles and financial issues that we face today. Besides, we all know that board meetings bring out the worst in people! One person wants one thing, the other person another; we all have competing agendas. It seems like we can never get along, we’re always fighting about this, that, or the other thing.”
“Hold on! Wait a minute! Let’s stop and think through this a bit,” I told my pastor friend. “Board meetings are the way that they are because we make them that way. We can change things. We can contend for unity rather than being divided all the time. We can put people on the Board who are known for their good character and godly living rather than those that want it the most or are the most popular. As pastors, we can change lots of things that make a huge difference – how often we meet, how we set agendas, how we resolve conflict, how we structure our meetings – there are a lot of things we can do to try to move forward in unity!”
The conversation about Board meetings continued for quite a while, not only that day but on the phone and in various settings for months and even years to come. In fact, the conversation grew to include not just the two of us but pastors and church leaders scattered throughout the Body of Christ. And while we found that there were different approaches to church board or council meetings – different bylaws, various ways of running meetings, etc. – there was also a lot that we had in common. We all had similar problems with board meetings and, as time went on, we found similar solutions.
One of the foundational things that we discovered was that we need to change our thinking in regard to the purposes and goals of the board/council meetings. We must move away from seeing them as simply business meetings where members come together to disburse money, fulfill legal obligations, and debate competing ideas and agendas. Instead, we should see them as opportunities to invest in church leaders and move forward together in unity.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:2 to contend for unity: ‘being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.’ In many of our board/council meetings, though, we find that we are contending with one another instead of contending for unity. We argue and debate over decisions that need to be made without thought to the wounds we are inflicting upon our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sure, we follow the official Rules of Order and take a vote, but when the meeting is over, we go our separate ways as winners and losers. The Body of Christ is divided over an issue and we don’t contend for unity and reconciliation but instead just allow there to be a rift between the opposing sides.
Most of us in this ongoing discussion of board/council meetings agreed that we wanted unity and peace but didn’t know how to bring that about. Many of us confessed that our business meetings caused more division than unity. There were competing agendas, personality conflicts, financial pressures, and lots of hidden dynamics that caused our meetings to sometimes do more harm than good. But what could we do differently? Here are some of the ideas that came forth:
Recognize that the board/council meeting isn’t just another business meeting, as if the church is a secular organization. The meeting is not a place for personal agendas, personality-driven power-plays, or divisive bickering and put-downs. Instead it should be a place of seeking God and discerning His will for His church. Conversations should be uplifting as members build one another up for the purposes for which God has called them.
Prayer and worship and seeking God’s presence should be an integral part of the meeting, perhaps even tarrying for one hour before the start of the official agenda. If the group is united in pursuing God and discerning His agenda for His church then personal agendas and petty arguments fade away in the light of His will.
Reading Scripture devotionally as the members seek His will is a must. God’s Word will speak to situations the church faces and the Holy Spirit will bring inspiration, direction, and promises to the group. In addition, Scriptures that call for unity and speak to our need to love and care for one another will soften the hearts of members towards one another.
Be committed to moving together in unity. Move forward on an issue only if everyone agrees, rather than using Rules of Order that are common in organizations in the world. Be the Church, a family of God that moves forward in unity and love for one another. And when an issue arises that people can’t agree upon, put it off until the next meeting so everyone has a chance to pray over it and talk amongst themselves. If everyone prays about it and talks it through without coming up with a resolution that everyone can agree upon, then maybe a vote and majority rule is the right way to go. But contend for unity, for coming up with something everyone can agree upon, or at least be willingly submitted to by those in the minority.
Remember that people are more important than things or personal agendas. Relationships among board/council members cannot be sacrificed on the altar of getting things done.
Allow more time for board/council meetings. It takes time to seek God’s face and discern His will as a group. It takes time to talk through issues and really hear the hearts of others concerning a matter. It might even take more frequent meetings to work through issues the church is facing. But isn’t the Church worth it?
Be willing to spend more time with board/council members outside of the official meetings. We are told to love one another and that we will be known by our love one for another. That has to start with a board/council that is united in love and purpose. How can that happen if we don’t spend time with one another? How can we love one another if we hardly know each other?
Value long-term relationships among church leaders. Churches in the New Testament were led by people who were known for their good character and faithfulness over the years. They were called to shepherd, teach, encourage, exhort, and pray for the family of God. It wasn’t a two-year part-time commitment but a lifestyle for a lifetime. We need to see board/council members not as two-year part-timers but as vital members in the Body of Christ who are an integral part of what God is doing. Perhaps churches today could develop a leadership team of people from all walks of life (not just clergy and staff) and then board members could be selected from that group. Then people would already know each other and be committed to loving and caring for one another before they are selected to serve on the board or council.
We hope that some of these ideas will make sense in your situation. Our prayer is that pastors and church leaders will take time to think and pray about how they do their board or council meetings. Most of us have inherited a non-Biblical way of running our meetings that is based upon the wisdom of man. Let’s draw near to God and ask Him how He wants us to lead His church.
Action Points to Consider and Contemplate:
Pray for your church council/board and other church leaders. Set yourself to pray regularly for them and perhaps organize a prayer team to pray for them consistently. Church leaders come under spiritual attack in a variety of ways and need strong prayer covering. Pray for unity in the church, especially among leaders, and genuine love for one another.
If you serve on a church council or board, suggest that the board/council spend more time in prayer together. Organize special prayer meetings where board members can pray for one another as well as church concerns. Organize get-togethers where board members can share a meal and do something fun together instead of coming together only for decision-making. Help board members get to know one another and share love and concern for one another.
If you serve on a church council or board, build some of the suggestions above into your meetings. Take extra time for prayer and be quick to ask the Lord about specific issues. Talk about how important it is to move together in unity and love. Allow time for board members to share testimonies and prayer requests. Incorporate fun get-to-know-you games if board members don’t know one another. Share Scriptures about love, unity, and forgiving one another.
Quote from Brother Barnabas: “Make sure to include the current board members and other leaders in the process of thinking through how you do board meetings. Come together as a team and seek the Lord and the Scriptures about how the church should be led and governed. Spend time in prayer together, allowing plenty of time for the Lord to speak to your hearts and for people to share how they are feeling led by the Spirit. Read Scripture together and let the Word go deep into your hearts and change your lives and attitudes. And when the Word is about love or unity or praying for one another or caring for one another, don’t just gloss over them as simplistic. Take them to heart as for today, for people and churches that desperately need love, unity, and connectedness.”
Let’s Pray Together:Lord, help me to help our church leadership team to move forward in unity and love. Let us have the same heart, same purpose, same mind, same direction. Help us to put the needs of others before our own. Remind us to give higher priority to the well-being of our fellow leaders than our own agendas. Let us be known for our love, concern, and care for one another and for all your people. I pray for the following leaders and meetings that I bring before You now…(continue praying as you feel led)