This post, which looks at how to choose church board members, is the third post in a series on church boards.
We’ve previously looked at why church boards are not, scripturally, responsible for the spiritual government of the church. We also covered board responsibilities. Later, we will look at board structure and board meetings. In this post, we will focus on church board members.
It’s fine understanding what a church board does, but what about the ‘who’? What type of people should – and shouldn’t – be considered to perform this key role? Is there a wise way in how to choose potential church board members?
I said previously that board members are, scripturally, not church elders. The New Testament also speaks of church leaders called deacons. For some, this is a potentially troubling word, loaded with history or negativity. But if we ensure our understanding of it is biblical and are able to put aside poor or incorrect demonstrations, we can redeem the word, the role, and save ourselves a lot of trouble.
Deacon, from the Greek diakonos, means ‘servant’ or ‘minister’. Scripturally, these are people who served church elders in practical roles. Acts 6 shows us the first deacons, and Romans 16:1 shows Paul referring to a woman called Phoebe as a ‘deaconess’, meaning there are no scriptural gender issues over who can serve as a deacon, no matter the role. One of these deacon roles, amongst many other non-eldership leadership roles, would be serving on a church board.
This role of deacons comes with clear scriptural guidance which should inform our church board member recruitment process. We need to consider two aspects – the personal, and the procedural.
Your recruitment needs to consider two sets of requirements – the personal, and the procedural.
Church Board Members: The Personal Requirements
I recommend vetting potential board members with the criteria outlined in Paul’s letter to Timothy regarding deacons (servants) in the church, which are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. These qualifications are:
|3:8||dignified (emotionally mature and stable, consistent, faithful)|
|3:8||not double-tongued (reliable, trustworthy, not gossips or backstabbers)|
|3:8||not addicted to much wine (not prone to addiction or vice)|
|3:8||not greedy for dishonest gain (not self-centred, hungry for power or avaricious)|
|3:9||hold on to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (spiritually mature)|
|3:10||tested (proven experience and success in life and in the church)|
|3:10||blameless (a good reputation)|
|3:12||husband of one wife (healthy marriage dynamics). As we saw earlier, Romans 16:1 refers to a female deacon. Therefore, this verse is not advising gender limitations. It is establishing godly marriage is an essential quality.|
|3:12||managing children and household well (orderly, godly and well-behaved children)|
Acts 6:3 also shows the consideration of people with good reputations, who are full of the Spirit of God and wisdom.
In essence, suitable church board members should be:
- men and women of godly, mature character;
- committed and active in church community life, in a serving or leadership capacity
- have been part of the church community for a good amount of years;
- are financially giving to the church
- subject to the authority of & accountable to spiritual leaders of the community;
- a good relational connection to the leadership, where trust exists
- for the church vision and culture, and willing to protect them
- not necessarily on staff;
- full of faith and able to trust God when things seem a risk;
- smart enough to question and research constructively;
- those with a good reputation in the church and the community at large;
- demonstrating a life marked by the fruit of the Spirit
- not ‘yes-men’ who approve everything;
- not ‘no-men’ who block or hinder everything.
Church Board Members: The Procedural Requirements
Every church will have different procedures it may need to follow when recruiting church board members. These could include by-laws or other governance policies. I would not recommend any kind of political campaign or selection because of popularity – character needs to trump charisma when recruiting church board members.
Even congregational voting carries its challenges. How informed can a person’s vote be if they do not know the life or fruit of a potential board member? Should the vote of someone who has been in the church for three weeks count the same as someone who has been around for thirty years? Scripturally, there is no precedent for voting for church leaders. Voting is susceptible to people considering non-biblical standards like popularity or profile, neither of which guarantee someone would make a suitable selection. I would recommend your process has filters in to protect against these kinds of methods and outcomes.
Instead, utilise recommendations of new board members from trusted people, which will carry much more weight. I would limit these trusted people to those who are either the existing board members, or current elders, or the senior leader. Proposing a prospective board member, who is then approved by the current board, feels much healthier. This also minimises any unsanctified democratic attitude that expects everyone and anyone to have a say, or even a stint, in church governance as a board member. However you arrive at choosing new board members, you want biblically qualified and spiritually mature leaders in place.
Whether formal or informal, interviews are a wise step to ensure potential board members are in support of the vision and culture of the church, have a good connection and heart for the church leadership, fulfil the biblical standards indicated in scripture, and are a good fit in terms of expertise, insight and personality with the rest of the board.
Make sure you check motives during your interview. If someone really wants to be on the board, why? If they are pursuing the role, maybe they shouldn’t be in it!
Incoming board members need to fully aware of the nature of the role and responsibilities, both of which should be outlined in a clear job description. A job description gives a good outline for interview questions and discussions.
Finally, if there are any legal requirements for board members, this is the time to ensure candidates are compliant – and can demonstrate compliance, and not just say they are!
To be part of a church board member is a great privilege as it is a key role in today’s world. There is a significant responsibility that comes with it, so ensuring good understanding through training is essential to help new members get up to speed. This will help them serve the church leadership, and therefore the church, in the most effective manner possible. Therefore, we need to be clear on how to choose church board members, for the good of the board, the leadership, and overall, the church.
The other articles in this series look more closely at the following areas:
- Overview and summary
- Defining board responsibilities
- Choosing board members
- Board structure
- Running effective board meetings