- Never Have a Policy that Includes "Unless the Board Approves"
My book had recently been awarded the Christian Leadership book of the year by Word Guild when I met a friend for lunch. He embraced one of his callings in life with delight–that of embarrassing me. He introduced me to the server by pointing out that I was an award-winning author. "Oh," she responded with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm, "what kind of book is it?” I gave my friend a nice going buddy look and mumbled the title, A Guide to Governing Charities. "Congratulations," she replied flatly, "Are you gentlemen ready to order yet?”
Even an award-winning book about governance doesn't cultivate much enthusiasm even for the most ardent reader; and a casual conversation about the subject typically drops the interaction to a new low. That’s unless one finds themselves launched, pressured railroaded or coerced into a situation where governance has a modicum of relevance. Maybe you took a chance on this book by picking it up at a garage sale or it was a Christmas gift from your mother-in-law. However it’s unlikely that you’re fulfilling a childhood dream of being a board member. You may have aspired to being a pilot or a firefighter or a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a dentist or a Walmart greeter–but not a board member.
After introducing Policy Governance to a board I am periodically asked by the attendees why they never heard some of the things I have shared or why they weren’t told about certain things before they came on the board. The implied assumption is that someone else on the board was holding out on them. The greater likelihood is that the blind have been leading the blind.
Suppose you’re experiencing some chest pains that feels like indigestion, except they don’t go away. Avoiding bad pizza and adding copious amounts of antacid to your diet hasn’t helped. Eventually the pain is so severe that you end up in the emergency ward where treatment requires open heart surgery. You are prepped, told the risk factors and eventually loaded onto a stretcher headed for the operating room. It rolls quietly down the hallway as you lie on your back, staring at the ceiling and fighting the legitimate anxiety that comes with such invasive surgery. You allow your eyes to wander to the side which immediately ramps up the level of anxiety. Instead of green scrubs, you discover you’re being escorted by someone with a monogrammed shirt with cufflinks. On the other side is a lady in a police uniform and walking next to her is someone wearing the hat of an airline captain. “What’s happening here–where’s the heart surgeon?” You are condescendingly advised that while there’s no cardiologist, everyone who’s going to be in the operating room is an expert in some field. How long would it take for you get off that stretcher and sprint to the nearest exit–backless gown and all?
This book is for people serving on boards which are loaded with experts: successful business people, doctors, lawyers and real estate tycoons, but they lack the expertise for the very job they’re doing. If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, this book is for you.
If you’ve spent any amount of time looking into the subject of board governance you have come across Policy Governance® or what is often referred to as the Carver model. I’m often asked if Policy Governance can be applied effectively in the church context. “But isn’t the church is different?” is often asked rhetorically when Policy Governance, the church and the Bible are used in the same sentence. This book is written from the perspective that the answer is yes. The church is different and the Bible needs to be the final authority as it relates to how a church is led. We understand that God is not a god of disorder and as such everything should be done in an appropriate and orderly way. It’s to that end that we want to see what Policy Governance has to say and how it can contribute to excellence in church governance.
If the church is the hope of the world, then it follows that every effort need to be made to ensure this hope functions with the greatest efficiency possible to facilitate the greatest effectiveness possible. God is worthy of it and people are worth it.