Not long ago I was invited to conduct pregnancy center board-training seminars in Peru and Ecuador. I did not know what they understood about running board meetings, yet I did know how vital this is for a ministry.
I wanted to be culturally sensitive and not impose North American ideas of order—"here's how we do things"—but at the same time impress on them how well these principles work. I was grateful that my South American brothers and sisters in Christ welcomed the training, which included information on how to place an item on an agenda, how to make motions, and what belongs in the minutes of a meeting.
However, as I deal with boards in North America, I find that I really can't assume they know these things either. At the risk of sounding like an elementary teacher, allow me to go over some rudimentary yet vital principles with you.
ALL BOARD MEMBERS
IT AN ABSOLUTE
PRIORITY TO ATTEND
ALL MEETINGS AND
BE PREPARED TO PLAY
A POSITIVE ROLE.
1. PRAYER — In seeking God's direction as a corporate entity, it's very important to set aside a generous, perhaps unspecified, amount of time at the beginning of every board meeting for prayer.
2. ATTENDANCE — All board members should make it an absolute priority to attend all meetings and be prepared to play a positive role. Board members who miss too many meetings may not be suitable for continued membership on the board. The board should determine how many meetings per year a member must attend, and establish a procedure for removing those who miss too many.
3. PREPARATION — It's a board member's responsibility to be aware of the ministry's needs, including finances, personnel issues, client programs, and fund-raising initiatives. A board member can be more effective if he or she is in possession of pertinent information at least one week before the meeting. This information should include:
Minutes from the previous meeting
Executive director's report
Meeting agenda, including old and new business
Information pertinent to any important discussions
4. FELLOWSHIP — Board meetings will go smoother and accomplish more if the members are in spiritual harmony with each other and have a friendly relationship. This can be accomplished by continuing your relationships outside the conference room.
5. PARTICIPATION — A board member is chosen for many reasons, but that member will only make a positive impact in meetings if everyone is free and willing to share his or her views. While a matter is under discussion, it's vital that all viewpoints are heard. The board chairman should allow and encourage strong discussion and honest disagreement in an atmosphere of love, respect, and Christian decorum. Then, once a vote is taken, the board must unite behind that decision 100 percent, whether it went the way everyone hoped or not.
In the next issue, I'll continue with more basic rules of order. Please keep in mind that I'm not just imposing rules. These are principles for smoothing and building relationships. They oil the machinery of an organization. If everyone knows how to behave in a meeting and what they can expect of other members, anxiety and tension levels go down, cooperation is made possible, and the ministry moves forward.
Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.