Reposted from the Jesus Creed – Guest post by Brian Harris VOSE
Good governance begins with clear differentiated roles for the pastoral staff and for the church board. It understands the different bases of authority within a church and allows these to create structures and systems which serve the church and community. Good governance provides for a collaborative partnership between lay and professional leaders to discern direction and to do ministry together. Church boards need to be able to to delegate effectively, to review ministries and leaders with care, to require sound stewardship, and to reflect continually on mission and purpose.
Five roles of governing elders / church board members.
- The church board articulates the church’s vision, mission, values and distinctives both as a long term direction but also within shorter term goals for specific periods of time. This is enabled by listening to God together, listening to the congregation, listening to ministry leaders, listening to each other. Elders / board members constantly reflect on the questions: Who are we as God’s people in this place? What is God calling us to do for his kingdom? Who is God calling us to reach with the good news?
- On the basis of the church vision, the governing elders appoint, empower, support and review the leadership of the church. The senior pastor in particular needs a clear basis of appointment and formative review process. There needs to be clear agreed delegation of authority to the staff to lead. Church boards are responsible to ensure there are appropriate processes of support in place – such as mentoring, expectations around self-care and professional formation. The senior pastor is accountable to the governing elders collectively – a carefully designed process for protecting the integrity of the pastor should be in place.
- The church eldership board discerns with the ministry leadership the direction and planning for the ministries of the church. This is a cooperative venture. Input into and endorsement of the drafted plan is usually part of governance responsibility, although the leadership usually draft and ultimately action the plan with the active support of the governing board. The governing board reflect on, evaluate and review the outcomes. They should be the key supporters of the ministries of the church.
- The church board oversees the application of the church’s resources to its vision and mission. This includes the mobilisation of individuals, their gifts and resources made available to God’s kingdom work. It includes overall financial stewardship and giving (not usually book-keeping). It includes stewardship of people (staff and pastoral care policies) and keeping church order and structure effective.
- The church board reviews its own functioning, maintaining health as a governing group. It is committed to training and equipping present and future members (usually through retreats and training times). It should keep individuals to terms of appointment and maintain its own internal discipline. Reviewing governance processes include; documenting the Church’s Governance policy, teaching clearly about the role of governing elders, having accessible public information, offering training for those qualified and willing to serve in this position (every 2 yrs), making selection / affirmation a process of spiritual discernment, having clear terms with sabbatical breaks, forming a team culture and covenant within the group, making congregational communication / consultation a priority.
Qualifications to serve as a governing elders:
- A recognised personal ministry of care, teaching (not necessarily public), discipline and prayer within the church
- Ability and willingness to serve in an communal spiritual oversight role
- Capacity to oversee the church as a whole – particularly in larger churches this capacity is to think systemically
- A person of faith and prayer (Spiritual maturity)
- A person able in humility to listen to God / congregation (Spiritual maturity)
- A person of wisdom, able to reflect and discern (Relational and personal maturity)