I've said it many times: selecting the right board members is crucial to any center's success. It's vital that the boards of Christian ministries consist of men and women who understand their ministry's mission and vision, as well as their individual and collective roles in it.
Taking that to heart, PCC boards and chief executives often ask me how to find new members. Since they play key roles in recruiting new board members, how should they go about it? How do they identify and secure people for the board who'll be passionate about the mission of the center?
Much of my counsel is contained in several workshops I conduct in conferences and board retreats: "The Role of the Board Member" and "Being Effective Board Members" (outlines available upon request). These principles were also enumerated in a previous Centerboard article, Assembling a Board:
Pray! Ask the Lord to grant you wisdom for this important job (James 1:5).
Determine that each member must share the center's commitment to Christ and view service on the board as a calling from the Lord.
Aim to assemble a board that, while united in Christ, represents a diverse group of people. Consider people who have a unique perspective, area of expertise, or leadership ability, but give precedence to anyone with an outstanding commitment to the center and its mission.
THE MINISTRY NEEDS TEAM PLAYERS.
Be wary of people who hope to join the board in order to serve an agenda other than the center's mission. The ministry needs team players.
Write out a job description for board members so candidates can make a prayerful and informed decision about joining the board. They also need to know how often the board meets, when and where meetings take place, how long meetings typically last, what the attendance requirements are, and the length of term a member will serve.
Choose board members who already support the ministry financially, and let them know they will be expected to continue. They should also be willing to guide the director toward other people and businesses who might become donors.
Choose a board chairperson carefully because this is a very strategic position. The chairperson must demonstrate willingness to work closely with the executive director and to assume leadership of fellow board members. If the chairperson is weak in either of these areas, the board and ministry will suffer.
Prepare board members for effective service. Host a training session in which you (or the chairperson) spell out what is expected of board members and how the board properly functions in relation to the ministry and its director.
These principles will help your center avoid common pitfalls. But what steps should you follow from the time you identify a potential candidate to actually welcoming him or her on the board? Here's what Life Matters Worldwide does:
With the above guidelines in mind, and prior to any communication with them, submit names of all potential candidates to every current member in order to ascertain whether there is any reason someone should not be considered. This will prevent possible embarrassment of the board or potential candidates.
The chief executive or chairman of the board should schedule meetings with those who meet the guidelines and pass muster. These meetings will be opportunities to make them aware of the need for new board members and invite them to consider joining the board.
Candidates should be given materials for review that include (but are not limited to): a board member job description, PCC statement of faith and other policy statements, a recent financial statement and budget, a board member application form, and various public relations materials pertaining to the PCC.
Allow candidates a few weeks to absorb the material and to think and pray over the invitation, then follow up with each one. Should they desire to continue the process, another meeting is scheduled at which several board members can interview the candidate (and he or she can interview them).
The candidate submits a completed board member application form which seeks standard personal information about workplace and responsibilities, church membership and activities, community involvement, volunteer participation in other organizations, related associations and memberships, and a brief statement as to why the candidate is interested in serving the organization.
Following a review by the entire board, a recommendation is entertained and a vote on the candidate is taken.
Successful candidates sign the following documents, which are filed and copies given to the board member: the board ethics policy, the board conflict of interest statement, the board member commitment pledge, the PCC's statement of faith.
These guidelines will help you select a team that approaches membership on your board as a service to the ministry. Boards that get off to a bad start can be the bane of an organization, while good boards are the foundation of fruitful ministry.
More information on finding and evaluating good candidates — as well as all forms mentioned above — can be found in Life Matter's Standards for Excellence manual. This comprehensive resource is available for purchase from our online store. Please feel free to call our office with your questions. We're ready and delighted to help in any way we can.
Tom Lothamer is president of Life Matters Worldwide. He can be reached by email or phone: 1-800-968-6086, (616) 257-6800.