“The small church board determines the overall health of the church,” according to Dr. Glenn Daman of the Center for Small Church Leadership.
He argues that in larger churches, the pastor and staff provide the most visible leadership. In smaller churches, though, parishioners tend to look to the board for leadership.
Whether large church or small, the health and performance of the board deserve thought and attention.
In a previous post, I defined a high performing board as one which vigorously debates idea but without serious damage to trusting relationships. In other words, the best boards disagree agreeably.
One of the four critical skill sets a board must master in order to reach this idea: problem-solving. High performing board’s think both critically and creatively.
Focus Relentlessly on Finding the Best Solution
A board can find itself distracted from solving the problem at hand. It is easy to devolve into determining who is to blame, defending entrenched positions, rehearsing the history of the problem, demonizing opponents, name-calling, and any number of other interactions that don’t actually create a solution!
Move your board toward high performance by promoting a problem-solving focus and the practical skills of “ideational conflict”. Here are five very simple yet profoundly effective skills to model and teach.
1. Actively seek out information and opinions. Never squelch ideas.
2. Ask lots of questions. Don’t jump to conclusions and prevent the group from doing so.
3. Criticize ideas but not people.
4. Examine advantages and disadvantages of ALL solutions.
5. Maximize ideational conflict. Don’t avoid disagreement; encourage it.
It can be helpful to call the group’s attention to the problem at hand and remind them that goal remains to find a solution. For example, “I realize that this problem possibly could have been prevented if we had done this or that in the past; however, we must find a solution for the situation as it is now. So, we should focus on that.”
Problem-solving skills can be learned, you can model them, and the church board can grow its ability to lead effectively.
(These tips condense adapted from Communication in Small Groups: Theory, Process and Skills, 7th Edition by John F. Cragan, David W. Wright, Chris R. Kasch, available on Amazon.com.)