Mess or Model: Unlock Excellence in Board Governance with LCEF
Your board is the greatest blessing your ministry has…and the greatest bane. The influence of governing boards cannot be overstated. Through the years, many experts have tried to define different kinds of boards representing them as “models” of governing. Almost all of these models are simply descriptions of board function. They are, at best, lists of best practices and how they work in certain settings.
The problem with lists of best practices or descriptions of board function is that they don’t have the philosophical structure of an actual governing model. At LCEF, we believe the most effective—and perhaps only fully articulated—model of governance is the Policy Governance model created by John Carver. Through other posts, we’ll share much more detail on this model and why we believe it is effective for ministries of any size or type.
Here’s why a comprehensive and coherent model of governance is so important. People. Yes, every type of governing board eventually struggles because of the people on the board. Even Policy Governance boards struggle when you put people into the model. As Christians, we understand why this is. Sin. Our broken human nature makes governing quite difficult. One definition of sin from the Latin language is incurvatus in se. Translated turned in on self. When board members come to the table with a personal agenda, they are turned in on self and will find it hard to prioritize the needs of the ministry ahead of their own concerns. Examples aren’t necessary as all of us have seen boards derailed by the personal interests of individual board members.
Declaring a best practice or stating that the board is a founding board doesn’t really give the board chair the structural support to confront personal agendas or keep the board from interfering with operational details. A board that doesn’t know its place and purpose within a ministry is a mess. That mess isn’t fully exposed until the ministry really needs the direction of the board…and it’s not there. That mess isn’t fully revealed until there’s a conflict with the operational head of the ministry (CEO, executive director, senior pastor, principal, etc.), and the board starts interfering in the operations of the ministry.
Policy Governance articulates firm lines of distinction between those who own the ministry, the governing board and the operations. It invites people who are passionate about the success of the ministry to understand these three distinct roles. It gives structure in writing to the current board members and anyone who joins the board in the future allowing them to evaluate when they are governing appropriately and when they have drifted out of their lane. This clarity gives the board chair all the tools needed to guide the board, and it gives the board all the tools it needs to govern with excellence.
If your board is a mess or is on the path to becoming a mess, LCEF can help implement a model that will bring stability, clarity and excellence to your ministry. How do you know if your board is on a path to becoming a mess? If you don’t have a comprehensive and coherent model of governance upon which to stand that is clearly articulated in writing (this isn’t your constitution and bylaws), then the mess is coming someday.