Servant LeadershipApril 2006
By: Tom Lothamer
Americans have the privilege of living in a republic. We choose our leaders democratically, and they in turn rule by majority. Most organizations in this country copy this model for decision making, including schools, businesses, churches, and pregnancy care centers. The question is, "Should we automatically adopt this pattern?" While it works for public enterprises, my answer for Christian ministries is "no."
As we serve on a PCC board, we understand from the outset that such an organization is fundamentally different from a secular one. It belongs to the Lord, and therefore He has the right to "put on" or "take off" any agenda item He wants.
The board and administrative staff are mere stewards, servants in a leadership position. No matter the importance of one's job title, all must set aside their own agendas and seek to discern what the Lord's plan is for every area of ministry. His plan may not be clear right away—we may need to wait a long time for an answer—but Scripture assures us that God will reveal His will to us (Psalm 119:66, 143:10; Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 33:3; James 1:5).
What if there's disagreement within your center's board about what the Lord wants you to do? There's a second aspect of servant leadership that kicks in at this point. We not only serve the Lord, but we also serve each other.
How can individual board members serve one another?
Demonstrate godly love for fellow members. Every effort should be made to develop strong relationships between board members, both inside and outside the boardroom (Ephesians 4:1-3).
NO MATTER THE
IMPORTANCE OF ONE'S
JOB TITLE, ALL MUST
SET ASIDE THEIR OWN
AGENDAS AND SEEK
TO DISCERN WHAT
THE LORD'S PLAN
IS FOR EVERY AREA
Develop consensus regarding key decisions. On less important matters those in the minority should graciously yield to the majority, but on critical matters those in the majority should respect the concerns of the minority and postpone moving forward until all are in agreement.
Commit to proper communication. The center director and the board chairman are primarily responsible for this aspect of keeping peace. The rule of thumb is this: What one board member knows, all the members know. No member should be blindsided by lacking information the others have.
Speak publicly with one voice. Within the boardroom, all opinions and insights are valuable and welcome; outside the boardroom, members must present a united front. Disagreements and disputes must be resolved internally first, not aired with PCC staff or others as though one were attempting to build support for one's viewpoint (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Not long ago, a center director sought my advice on how to foster unity on her fractured board. The members had many disagreements and found it difficult to carry on the business of the ministry. Worse, they lacked a vision of where the ministry needed to go. As we talked, I soon realized they were violating all the above rules of servant leadership.
We scheduled a weekend retreat with the board in which we could address the ministry's needs and principles of board governance. Coming together after much prayer and anticipation, it was exciting to see the changes in each board member that weekend. They began to understand their role as individual board members and what it means to work together as a unit. A few months later the director was pleased to report how the board was now diligently seeking to work in harmony under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
PCC board members are first of all servants of the Lord, then servants of the center's overall mission and of their fellow board members. As we follow a biblical model, we can be confident God will supply the ministry's needs. After all, it belongs to Him.
Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.