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Handling Board and Organizational Conflict: The Board Chaplain

April 2010
By: Thomas Glessner
Successfully working through board and staff conflict within a Pregnancy Resource Center organization has been a challenge over the years. Many PRCs have suffered serious decline after going through destructive personnel conflicts, and some have faced serious legal issues resulting from failed efforts to deal with such conflict.

A tool that has been successfully developed to deal with board and staff conflict within a PRC has been the use of an appointed Board Chaplain. This is a volunteer position that serves the PRC board of directors and is set up to deal with organizational conflict from a biblical perspective.

Pastor Jim Dundas, president of Hope National, a former PRC director and NIFLA Board member, has developed this program and says: "We have been doing this program now since 1990. Good results have occurred in our ministries from this, and it has been a wonderful way to engage busy pastors on a leadership level in our ministry without committing them to a monthly meeting, which many will avoid due to their overworked schedules."

Some key elements of this position are:


The Board Chaplain is a non-voting member of the board and, as such, acts as an active advisor to the board on all matters of spiritual significance, including the handling of board and staff conflict.

The Board Chaplain is not required to attend board meetings although he is welcome to do so. The only time he must attend a meeting is when the board has a special issue that requires his presence for resolution. In such cases, the Board Chaplain is called in for a discussion of the specific issue(s) and leaves when the issue is either resolved or tabled.

The main purpose of the Board Chaplain is to serve as a pastor to the board and deal with spiritually related issues that arise. For example, the Chaplain may be called in to explain the PRC's Statement of Faith when there is confusion or even disagreement among board members about its meaning. In such a case, an explanation of the issue, its history, meaning, and impact to the board is helpful.

The Board Chaplain is the first pastor that the board calls on when any dispute arises that requires a pastor's input or insight. An example of this occurred when a particular PRC was having difficulty resolving conflict and several board members were seeking their own pastors for advice. In some cases, the advice being given was contradictory. This scenario also allowed the board issues to be talked about in numerous church staffs and even within the churches themselves — creating greater problems for the PRC. Further, various board members were receiving inaccurate advise from pastors who didn't have the complete story and input from all sides of the conflict. Such conflict can be avoided by making it a board requirement that the first place the board would go for such spiritual help is the Board Chaplain. This will ensure that matters are kept confidential.

One expectation of the Board Chaplain is that he will physically visit the center at least once a month to meet the staff and volunteers. This is a way for him to get to know them and minister to them if needed due to center stress.

The Board Chaplain is the first pastor to go to when the PRC needs a pastor to do a Bible study or help with counseling — even to do pastoral counseling.

The Board Chaplain position is a two-year position. After two years, it is our recommendation to bring in another qualified pastor in the community. This allows different churches to become involved with the PRC.

The position of Board Chaplain creates a great connection between the center and the churches in the community. The Board Chaplain represents the PRC ministry at local ministerial meetings. He informs the others of the PRC ministry, purpose, and needs. One PRC reports that: "When we first started this program we had only several churches involved with us. A year after we started it we had 25 pastors at our banquet and all were supporting the ministry. This multiplies pastoral and church involvement."
For further information on the Board Chaplain program and how it can be implemented in your PRC, contact Jim Dundas at hopenational1@me.com, www.hopenational.net.

Thomas A. Glessner is President of NIFLA and can be contacted at 540-372-3930 or NIFLA@aol.com.

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