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CENTERBOARD:Decision-Making During Change —Part 2

October 2009
By: Tom Lothamer

My last article broached the subject of decision-making during change. I wrote about how centers engage in the process and what information they need in order to make appropriate changes. I also addressed the issue of who should be involved in this process.

Our ministry recently hired an Associate Director for Ministry Development. It might be instructive for me to share the journey that took us almost three years to travel.

When I told the executive board we needed a new executive-level member of the team to move us to the next level of ministry, we were receiving more and more requests for help from churches and pregnancy centers in the United States and from mission agencies and missionaries throughout the world. Our initial talks centered on the following areas:

Job description: What would it be? In what ways would he or she share the load? And how would he or she relate to the rest of the team?

Budget: What would the financial implications be? How would we raise funds to pay an additional salary? Would we fill the position and expect the Lord to bring in the money, or would we wait until we had enough in hand before hiring? Did we need the position so much that the risk would be worth it?

Character: What traits and gifts should this person have in order to improve the chemistry of the team and foster unity? Should we require candidates to take personality tests in order to determine whether a candidate is a good "fit"?

Mission: What is our mission and vision for the ministry? What is our plan and how will a new staff member enhance our growth and development?

In the intervening period, we brought this need before the Lord. Board members asked God for wisdom on how and when to proceed. It wasn't until 2009, taking all these factors into consideration, that we agreed it was time to move forward.

One thing that led to our eventual decision was the board's determination we should develop a new strategic plan in 2009. At the January meeting, a committee was formed to work with the staff on the next three- to five-year plan. At that committee's first meeting, we made 'staff development' one of the plan elements and, as part of that process, a timeline was drafted. It stated we would hire an associate director within two years.

Then, the unforeseen happened. In late April of this year, two staff members left. Before hiring replacements, select board members and staff met in early May to discuss whether this was an opportunity to restructure. We thought about these questions:

What tasks had these positions been responsible for? Would it make sense for remaining staff members to adopt any of these tasks as part of their job descriptions and, if so, which ones?

What types of gifts and personality traits would be necessary in any new hires to make us more effective in reaching our goals?

Is now the time to ask the board to approve the position of associate director? Would the freed-up salaries allow us to fill the position and still meet our 2009 budget?

Meanwhile, I'd been encouraging one of our board members to prayerfully consider coming on staff. He had been in sales and marketing for 15 years, the executive director of a PCC for seven years, and a state legislator. It seemed to me he'd be perfect for the job, but until now, the timing hadn't been right.

So, over the months I continued to pray and promote the idea to the candidate and our board. I waited until he came to me in May, at the very time the board and staff had begun to discuss future staff roles. He said he was interested and noted he would be able to work just two days a week for us until the start of 2010. This would enable us to ramp up our funding base over time.

In early June, the board met in a special session to consider the proposal and, after more prayer, agreed to approve the new position and its job description, which I had drafted. They also agreed to fund the position with current budgeted resources. Of course, since the candidate was the topic of the discussion, he was excused from all board deliberations concerning the position and did not vote. After the vote it was my responsibility to formally interview him for the position, decide whether he was the one to fill it, offer him a compensation and benefits package, and determine his start date.

The process we followed led to unity and confidence that we were doing the right thing. The staff was involved, the board played its part, and I was allowed to take leadership. While it took a long time—perhaps longer than we wanted—and represented significant change, it was a positive experience.

Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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