Church Board Distractions: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid for Mission Success
Church & pastoral health
In the quest to fulfill their mission, church boards often contend with distractions that threaten to derail their purpose. To lead effectively, church boards must adopt a high-level, strategic and directional approach that keeps them focused on the big picture rather than on details, and on the direction in which the church is headed in the coming years. When a church board fails to practice this kind of leadership, it's often because of distractions.
Occasionally, you may have church members who are passionate about personal ministry projects. They may lobby church leaders to provide space, money and staff time to bring their ideas to life.
A church cannot be in the business of supporting every member's pet project. The project is probably a fine thing, but it might not contribute to strengthening the church spiritually. In that sense, the church has good reason not to support the program.
On the other hand, a church should prepare its members to serve in the world. Christ-followers should bring peace and share the gospel in their Monday-through-Saturday lives, and a church needs to teach and show people how they can do this.
So, think about how your church can develop an intentional strategy to teach its members how to make an impact for Jesus and encourage them to follow their calling.
The church should build a culture that promotes spiritual strength and maturity to help believers become stronger and more capable. They would gain the ability to live for themselves and invest in others.
At the same time, the church cannot provide logistical and financial support for every project that every member wants to pursue. It can — and should — bless and release members to do acts of Christian service as God leads them.
Distraction 2: Internal threats and doctrinal deviation
One of the board's primary roles is to protect the church from harm. The Bible speaks to questions of church culture in the context of church discipline. Church discipline involves calling to account any member of the community who seriously threatens the unity of the church.
The Bible lists several kinds of internal threats. The board must combat such sins, especially among leaders, precisely when they threaten the unity of the body. The church must demand assertive intervention to protect the body from harm.
The Bible also draws attention to significant doctrinal deviation. According to Acts 20:28-30, leaders should correct those who question the great doctrines of the faith. This is not about secondary issues, but about core issues of faith.
Distraction 3: A spirit of disunity
A board must create a culture that confronts dysfunctional or disruptive behavior and attitudes. These biblical examples talk about things inside the church — but things outside the church demand attention, too.
A board should pay attention to legal matters and ensure that nothing in this area disrupts the church.
It should ensure that good financial and accounting practices are followed so money issues don't trip up the church.
And, it should ensure that policies and procedures are in place for dealing with power relationships, employment contracts, sexual relationships and child protection.
Any time a problem crops up in one of these areas, a strong board will have a playbook ready, so the response can be godly and effective.
Distraction 4: Little details
If the church board concentrates on directional leadership, a distraction is anything that gets in the way of God’s calling and mission for the church.
When a church gets sidetracked from its mission, it's often because something distracted the board from its role. When boards get drawn into all the little details of running a church, they usually neglect the critical issues of directional leadership. No one else will pick up that job, so churches drift off with no sense of purpose and direction when this happens.
Your board’s job regarding distractions
Your church board must remain focused on the church's mission. And the most critical part of that job is fending off distractions. At the highest level, a church board should think of itself as the builder of a culture that keeps the church focused and effectively handles challenges and distractions.
A most effective board doesn't need to get involved in every personal conflict, policy deviation, or problem situation. Instead, it builds systems and habits so that everyone works to avoid distractions.
Building a strong culture suppresses distractions. A most effective board is one that pays attention to culture building. This means building and monitoring systems, policies and even ethos so that when problems arise (and they will), many people go right to work to minimize and solve the issue.
The question is not whether distractions will occur in your church; obviously, they will. The question is whether your culture immediately squashes them or neglects them and allows them to fester and grow.
Your board's job regarding distractions, disturbances and disruptions is to ensure your church is prepared so it doesn’t turn little problems into big ones.
This post is based on a video message from David Clark of Bethel Seminary. As of September, 2023 (when this article was published) the message is one of 24 video discussions included in Church Board Development training (with 12 more to be published soon), free to all Converge churches and available to churches outside of Converge for a small fee. So far, approximately 180 churches have incorporated Church Board Development training into their board meetings. Learn more about investing in your board and strengthening your church through Church Board Development.
Converge is a movement of churches working together to help people meet, know and follow Jesus. We do this by starting and strengthening churches together worldwide.