Russ' article this month is on the very hot topic of board development entitled "Church Board Development: The Next Frontier." Russ comes at this topic fresh from his experience with board members of large churches last week as well as his own experience as a member of a church board. Leadership is a big subject. So much so that it's time to start breaking this monolith into smaller pieces. An area ripe for further understanding is the role of the church board in helping manage transition and change. Our time recently at Leadership Network's Team Forums in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, underscores this point. A good deal of attention has been given to the role of the pastor in this new era. We need to remind ourselves, as Jethro did to his son-in-law Moses, that one person is not meant to carry this load alone. Our observation has been that boards have difficulty with strategic issues. They are constituted, in many cases, to handle legal, policy and key personnel matters. In the church context, governing boards bear some responsibility for the spiritual condition of the congregation. Most individuals serving in this capacity seldom think of their role in this way. I have reviewed a number of books and manuals for church boards over the years. Most, but not all, tend to have one thing in common: Maintaining the status quo. In light of the conditions facing churches today, it appears that some new thinking is needed. We are often asked who should deal with vision, mission, direction, etc. How should this come together? Is there a certain number of people that need to decide? Rather than quantify the process, I prefer to remind people: It's not how many are in the room. It's first a matter of "who" is in the room. Boards to some extent need to be involved in strategic as well as policy issues. Allowing for structural change within a growing church is both strategic and good policy. Ministry has to be worked through the "system" of the church. Therein lies the difficulty. We have good ideas and people to lead them. The road-block is often within the board, policy or procedures. For all the talk about the need for visionary leaders churches also need visionary systems in order for objectives to become reality. This past week has reminded us of the need to bring governing boards more into the leadership loop. Ram Charan, a consultant and the author of Boards at Work, says there is a need to learn what goes on inside the board meeting. Including how to discuss issues. (Something church boards have a hard time doing). "People need to learn how it's done...how to capture the energy of the group. When the dialogue is superb, the collective wisdom of a board is breathtaking and the leader really benefits. No other body delivers such power." The National Association of Corporate Directors offers some questions that overlap into the church boardroom: -What should a good board member receive in terms of information? -How much time should be spent preparing for meetings? -What are the key areas to be addressed? -Where can board members make significant contributions? -What is the board's legal responsibility? Board members need to know what is required of them. This leads to another issue--the division of labor. There are different polities represented in Leadership Network's customer base. Yet, these questions transcend varieties of faith. Another thing to keep in mind when talking about board development is the identity and self worth of the pastor. This may be the biggest barrier of all to expanding leadership development to include governing boards. More than a few will feel threatened by this approach. This does not need to be the case. Building boards has everything to do with developing credible relationships with lay leaders. Relationships are built on trust. You seldom trust people you don't know. It's time for us to get to know one another beyond the superficial levels that now characterize much of our society. Too much is at stake to leave things as they are presently. Pastors have the potential for strong allies in their board chair and executive committee if handled properly. Open and continuous communications are key elements in leading and managing change. A base of support is required for nearly everything a pastor and staff wish to do. As a former board member (and chair) I still believe the shortest distance between two individuals is a straight line. Communication is more than e-mail. We're talking about face-to-face dialogue in between meetings and at times when clarity does not exist. It will be necessary for pastors to see the benefits of board development in order for things to move ahead. Some are already far down this trail. Others have yet to begin the journey. It's time to take a complex subject (leadership) and break it into smaller parts. Board development seems like a good place to begin. Thanks Russ, and give him feedback by writing him an email at email@example.com. And send me your best books and resources for working with boards to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try and survey and share them with the whole group.