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From Vision to Reality

Governance

New challenges require new solutions

When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In our experience, the truth behind that cliché often applies to church leadership. The Governing Board (Session, Elders, Deacons, Vestry, etc.) has certain protocols that have been followed for decades. They were very helpful a generation ago, but for some reason many of them don’t seem to work anymore. The problems they were designed to solve are no longer the problems facing the church board.

Often, these challenges involve transitioning from one generation to the next, or one era to the next. Sometimes, these challenges involve responding to a rapidly-changing environment – a strategic inflection point – such as a pandemic or game-changing technology.

A Governing Board should be involved with strategic leadership and accountable for the strategic direction, but the senior pastor should be responsible for implementing the strategic direction.

The Leadership Triangle

The Leadership Triangle helps ministry leaders identify the three types of
challenges and choose the appropriate response.

 

Tactical Challenges

Tactical challenges include operational, technical, and fiduciary issues. An astute leader addresses tactical challenges by identifying the right expert (plumber, accountant, Geek Squad) and empowering them to solve the problem.

For a Governing Board, tactical challenges should be where you establish policy rather than make decisions. Policies should be “what we always do and what we never do,” providing legal, ethical, financial, and moral protections for the ministry.

Strategic Challenges

Strategic challenges are not necessarily problems to be solved but challenges you can anticipate. Strategy involves surveying the environment outside your church and deciding how best leadership and staff can adapt to external opportunities and obstacles.

Often, these challenges involve transitioning from one generation to the next, or one era to the next. Sometimes, these challenges involve responding to a rapidly-changing environment – a strategic inflection point – such as a pandemic or game-changing technology.

A Governing Board should be involved with strategic leadership and accountable for the strategic direction, but the senior pastor should be responsible for implementing the strategic direction.

Transformational Challenges

Transformational challenges relate to values, behaviors, and attitudes. They are often rooted in the system and not easily discernable. Transformational challenges are the internal conflicts that keep you up at night.

The essence of a transformational challenge is in the concept of “competing values.” The best strategic (or tactical) decision might create significant dissent or conflict due to the competing values.

To exercise transformational leadership, a Governing Board must:

• Be available
• Manage conflict and grief
• Accept resistance
• Look at the entire system, not just the parts
• Be an advocate for the mission, not just a representative of a certain segment

Does your Governing Board need clarity?

Governance is a tricky topic for most ministries. There are often dual roles. Am I a member or elder? Am I the pastor’s boss in one meeting, and he’s my shepherd in another setting? It’s vital to clarify lines of authority and boundaries between governance and management.

Leighton Ford Ministries’ governance process is customized to each church partner, based on size, scope, and current challenges. Contact us to start exploring options, and let us be a trusted friend as together we navigate these important issues.

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