Want better church board meetings?
What if your church board meeting was your favorite meeting each month? What if you could hardly wait until the leaders of your local church gathered to share what God has been doing the last month and to pray and plan together for the next month?
The book of Acts describes the gatherings of the early church leaders in these ways:
• “They were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1, NKJV).
• “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, NKJV).
• “With gladness and simplicity of heart,praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46, 47, NKJV).
• “They went to their own companions and reported all” (Acts 4:23, NKJV).
• “They raised their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24, NKJV).
• “Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29, NKJV).
• “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31, NKJV).
• “Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41, NKJV).
How can our church board meetings better reflect the leadership gatherings during the early church? Here are three ministry models to move us in that direction. They are effective for church school, organizational, and institutional meetings as well. Remember that a good model can make our difficulties easy and light.
1. Love and pray for each church board member and their family
Pray for some specific blessing for each one in the days leading up to the meeting. If board members are not succeeding in their personal walk with Jesus; their relationships, including family; and the ministry and mission Jesus has called them to, then you will have a hard time accomplishing the Great Commission where God has placed you. But if you are praying for their success and victories in these areas, you will see breakthroughs in their lives and the lives they influence.
2. Simplify the agenda
During my first church board meetings as a young pastor, I had no clue what to expect or how to lead. In the years since, I have simplified the church board agenda in advance to include five sections.
Vision, Bible study, and prayer. This section sets the tone for the entire meeting. We usually do one of the following during this time.
• A short devotional reminding us of our mission and message. This can be given by any of the church leaders.
• Bible study. Read a chapter around the circle with each person reading a verse, and then we share verses that spoke to our hearts.
• Prayer time. Short prayers by several people.
• Watch and apply a Transforming Your Church video clip. 1
Huddles.Through the years I encouraged my elders to mentor other church board members, but it rarely happened until I added a 15-minute agenda item to the church board called “huddles.” During this time, all board members get into their huddle with their designated elder/mentor. In these groups of 3 to 7 leaders, they share with each other what is going well in their life and ministry, how they have seen God at work during the past month, what challenges they face, and how they are trying to address the challenges. The huddle is a place of fun, fellowship, collective help, encouragement, and prayer. It is a place where basic discipleship and small group life is modeled for the rest of the church family.
Reports. After huddles the church board returns to the larger circle. Now it is time for reports. This can be one of the most exciting times of the meeting.
• Soul-winning report (5–7 minutes): Stories and statistics are presented about what the Lord has done to move His work forward in the areas of new baptisms, new groups started, and new churches being planted.
• Ministry reports (2 minutes each): This report is given by any who have something fresh to add. Once again, the emphasis is on short stories (or statistics) or new groups that have started that are being mentored by a church board member.
• Clerk’s report (5–7 minutes): This report includes the following plus votes:
1. Minutes of the previous meeting. (A copy of the minutes has usually been sent to church board members a week in advance along with a notice of the meeting.)
2. Church calendar. We quickly review the calendar for the next two months. We use the online Google Calendar.
3. Membership changes, if any: baptisms, professions of faith, transfers, deaths, and dropped memberships. Anything voted in this area goes as a recommendation to a church business meeting.
• Treasurer’s report (5–7 minutes): We briefly review whether financial stewardship is strong enough to support our ministry and mission expenses or if we need to adjust something. Note—if finances dominate your church board conversations, read and apply the principles in these articles: “Shifting Your Focus to Increase Tithe and Offerings”2 and “ ‘Our Church Is Financially Broke.’ ” 3
Recommendations. This is a time when church leaders can make specific recommendations for their area of ministry that impact the larger church.
• The head deacon might make a recommendation that relates to the building. The Sabbath School superintendent might make a recommendation for new Sabbath School teachers or assistants. A board member might make a recommendation for a major purchase from the area of the budget they oversee. No recommendation should take longer than three to five minutes. After a brief discussion, either a vote can be taken or the item can be referred to the next church board meeting if there is a need for prayer and reflection before voting.
• This “Recommendations” section of the church board meeting is where some churches derail. There may be a few church board members who think the board meeting would be a place to bring problems and dump them on the group. This results in long discussions, frustration, and few answers. What is the solution? If anyone brings a problem to the church board, they should be asked immediately: “What’s your recommendation?” If they do not have one, then move on immediately to the next recommendation. The person presenting the problem can bring a recommendation to the next church board meeting if it is something important.
• Insisting on recommendations that can be voted up or down or easily modified and voted moves the church toward solutions and celebrations and away from problems and frustrations.
Circle prayer and group hug. At the end of each meeting we all stand and join hands in a circle. Then we each pray a one-to two-sentence prayer around the circle. After that we take two steps forward, forming a tighter circle, put our arms around the person on each side of us, and on the count of three we all hug the entire circle of people and say “Grug” (short for group hug) and then, “When you have the Lord and you have each other, what else do you need!” We end united in Christ, joyful and happy that the Lord has led us one more month!
3. Add tools to your leadership tool box
No leader is perfect, but if you have more tools in your leadership tool box, the Holy Spirit can guide you to use the right one at the right time. Here are some tools that can help.
• Secret ballot for very sensitive issues or if there is a bully on the board.
• Straw poll (nonbinding) to see whether your church board team is clearly leaning one way or the other; and if so, you do not need more discussion on a topic.
• Prayer break for wisdom on decisions and recommendations.
• Church business meeting. Every third church board meeting (once a quarter) we designate as a church business meeting, where every member is notified and encouraged to attend. At this meeting, we handle any major issues that need church-wide attention.
• New church year orientation. At the beginning of the church year, we have a new church year orientation for church board members and group leaders (Sabbath School, ministry, Bible study, and other groups) to hear each other’s testimonies and share vision together. This provides spiritual bonding of leaders for the new year.
• Set blocks of time on the church board for major items such as setting goals, building teams/huddles, scheduling the calendar, and agreeing on the budget.
The Lord can help us have beautiful, inspiring, unifying church board meetings that help us move forward rapidly with His work in these last days.
Sidebar: Inspired insights on church board meetings4
1. “Ministers should avoid long committee meetings.—A minister cannot keep in the best spiritual frame of mind while he is called upon to settle little difficulties in the various churches. This is not his appointed work. God desires to use every faculty of His chosen messengers. Their mind should not be wearied by long committee meetings at night; for God wants all their brain power to be used in proclaiming the gospel as it is in Christ Jesus.
2. “Those who do not attend committee meetings tend to be critical later of how things are done.—They say, ‘Oh, it is only a business meeting.’ But all who have the mental capacity ought to be anxious and determined to understand how the business matters are managed. Some who have given up the faith have made very false statements in relation to the workings of the cause and the management of its business. Had these attended the business meetings, and listened attentively to the proceedings, they would have understood how the work was conducted in all its branches, and could have borne testimony to the strict integrity that characterizes every department. The enemy could not then have urged in the insinuation that there were things kept back that the people were not permitted to know. Those who take no interest in the business meetings, generally have no real interest in the cause of God, and these are the ones who are tempted to believe that the management of our various enterprises is not just what it should be.
3. “The same persons should not serve for years on the same boards and committees.—Piety is needed. Less self-confidence and far more humility must be seen. The work of God has come to be looked upon as a common thing. It would have been much better to have changed the men on boards and committees than to have retained the very same men for years, until they supposed that their propositions were to be adopted without a question; and generally no voice has been lifted in an opposite direction.
4. “Committees should not be made up of those who have no spirit of self-denial.—When our brethren keep on the board, men whose hearts are as hard as stone, men who have not hearts of flesh, what can you expect? How can these men know what those sacrificed in the building up of the work. They have no spirit of sacrifice themselves, and how can they understand the experience of those who dressed cheaply, and who denied self, who placed themselves in any position that the cause of God might prosper. They know nothing of this, it is Greek to them.
5. “The committee meeting should be just as much under the dictation of the Spirit as the prayer meeting.—I wish to say to you that the business which may be carried on at this meeting is just as much a part of the service of God as is prayer. The business meeting is to be just as much under the dictation of the Spirit as the prayer meeting. There is danger of our getting a sentimental, impulsive religion. Let the business transacted at this meeting stand forth in such sacredness that the heavenly host can approve of it. We are to guard most sacredly the business lines of our work. Every line of business carried on here is to be in accordance with the principles of heaven.
6. “When God’s presence is recognized in committee meetings, it will safeguard against imprudent speeches and domineering attitudes.—Let God be recognized as the supreme Ruler of His heritage. Let every man place himself under His control. Let Him be recognized in all our assemblies, in every business meeting, every council, every committee. He sees all that is done, and hears all that is said. ‘Thou God seest me.’ Let these words be kept ever in mind. They will be a safeguard against imprudent, passionate speeches, against all desire to domineer. They will repress words that should never be spoken, and resolutions that men have no right to make—resolutions that restrict the liberty of human beings.
7. “Satan attends every committee meeting, trying to impress minds to make objections that will delay the work.—The very thing that the Lord had impressed upon the minds of His servants that ought to be done has not been done at the right time, because these men advanced their own ideas under the suggestions the devil had put in their minds to hinder the work of God and to disgust those who would see the work of God move. There have been suggestions made by themselves which have carried, which God never put into their minds. Satan attends every board meeting, every business meeting, every committee meeting, and if he can impress anyone’s mind to make objections or to throw in suggestions that will delay the work hours and weary out those who are called upon to attend these meetings, he is wonderfully pleased. He has had his way in the matter. And the business which should be pushed through with dispatch, yet in an intelligent manner, is made tedious and to drag along because of the human, unsanctified elements in the character of some who are placed in responsible positions, who do not have knowledge when to speak and when to keep silent.
8. “Only the church, not the board, disciplines members.—‘And if he shall neglect to hear them,’ what then shall be done? Shall a few persons in a board meeting take upon themselves the responsibility of disfellowshiping the erring one? ‘If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.’ Let the church take action in regard to its members.”
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1 See “Transforming Your Church,” Texas Evangelism, accessed October 5, 2017, www.texasevangelism.com/transform.
2 See Dan Serns, “Shifting Your Focus to Increase Tithes and Offerings,” Dan Serns (blog), May 10, 2015, danserns.wordpress.com/2015/05/10
3 See Dan Serns, “ ‘Our Church Is Financially Broke,’ ” Ministry, June 2016, www.ministrymagazine.org
4 Ellen G. White, Pastoral Ministry (Silver Spring, MD: General Conference Ministerial Association, 1995), 251–253.