Seven principles for church board communication to the congregation



  • Church strengthening


How do you communicate to and with your congregation during a season of conflict or crisis? Ironically, communicating with your congregation in those seasons is just implementing the best practices that you've had for communicating with them during good times.

In this article adapted from Converge’s Church Board Development training series, Rob O’Neal, senior pastor of Valley Community Baptist Church, a Converge Northeast congregation in Avon, Connecticut, shares his insights on church board communications with the congregation.

Navigating seasons of conflict in a crisis happens because trust is built between a congregation and a board when the board communicates. If you have been communicating well with your congregation during good times, communicating with them during seasons of conflict and crisis is just a more intense season of what you've already been doing. 

If you haven't built best communication practices into the rhythm of your Communications, now is the time to learn and Implement them consistently. 

We in the church are part of the body of Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Paul’s words apply to the church as a whole and also to local congregations. For the congregation to be the body of Christ means that we work together, and to work together means that we must communicate. 

Here are seven principles for communicating between boards and congregations that I've learned.

Principle 1: Keep board discussions confidential 

The board must speak to the congregation, but it is essential that what individual board members say during internal board deliberations is held in strict confidence. This is a fundamental principle of board governance and board operations. 

Principle 2: Speak with one voice

The board only speaks when the board speaks together. Individual members do not speak for the board as a whole. Doing so can be quite unhealthy, particularly during seasons of conflict and crisis, especially when individual board members share differing opinions. To seek allies and win people to their cause, the board should speak to the congregation with one voice. 

Principle 3: Follow the ‘no-surprises’ rule

When we are surprised, we have an anxiety response, and when we experience anxiety, we have fewer options for how to react and respond. So, if we want our congregations to react and respond well, we don't want to surprise them. Instead, we want to share information openly and freely and give people time to think, pray and process before requiring them to make decisions or respond. 

Like the importance of signals in traffic road signs, the signals we give to one another help us navigate the road confidently. Road signs tell us what's coming. 

Following the no-surprises rule will give your congregation signals. You'll tell them, “I have an important piece of information to share with you,” or you'll say, “There's a decision you will need to make, and this is what you need to know.” 



Principle 4: Know the purpose of your message

Your message will have a purpose, and you should know the purpose of your communication ahead of time. Are you going to share information with your congregation? Are you going to ask the congregation for input or advice? Are you going to ask the congregation to make a decision?

Principle 5: Communicate concisely

Think through what you plan to say in advance of saying it. During seasons of conflict and crisis, some of the things that you may have to say and share may have legal implications. So, think through what you're able to share and what you want to share. 

Say everything that needs to be said and nothing that will confuse the issue. When you overshare, you leave people confused and less able to make decisions. Thinking through what you will say in advance helps you communicate clearly and concisely. 

Communicating with your congregation during seasons of conflict and crisis can feel like a page from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We tend to communicate too little or too much. And what we want to communicate is what's just right. 

Principle 6: Listen genuinely


If you are listening to your congregation, it will take time to hear what they have to say. I have found a good practice to be that if the congregation needs to make an important decision, we schedule town halls in advance to give people an opportunity to hear information, ask questions, process, think and pray. 

But whatever form you're listening takes, be sure you're genuinely listening to what people say. It's not simply an opportunity to convince people that what you think and want is right. You want to know what they're thinking and understand their point of view. So be sure that you're listening genuinely. 

Principle 7: Lead from a sacred covenant

This is the most critical principle on this list. To be a part of a local congregation is to be a part of the body of Christ, and Jesus himself is the head of that body. On a governing board, that's the sacred Covenant from which we must lead. 

Our job as a governing board is frequently to help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. But seasons of conflict will sometimes put stress on that sacred covenant. 

There will be division in congregations, and there may even be seasons of division in the governing board. These seasons of conflict and division must lead us to think carefully about our sacred covenant. 

I can’t stress this enough: Jesus is our head, and our congregation is our body. It is our sacred covenant under Jesus to move congregations from where they are to where God wants them to be. It is a journey we must take together. 

This post is based on a video message from Rob O’Neal, senior pastor of Valley Community Baptist Church in Avon, Connecticut. As of March 2024 (when this article was published), the message is one of 36 video discussions included in Church Board Development training, which is free to all Converge churches and available to churches outside of Converge for a small fee. More than 200 churches actively use Church Board Development training in their board meetings. Learn more about investing in your board and strengthening your church through Church Board Development.

Converge, National

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.

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