A couple of nights ago my husband met a Simpson board member at Bible Study Fellowship for men. What Providence for the two of them to meet! My husband Jim said it was wonderful that he and the board member related to each other as brothers in the Lord in that venue. We thank God for that.
In effect, Jim’s main comment after interacting with the Simpson board member was that Jim could better see how people in the community might be slow to believe that such a nice person could be a member of a broken board. Thus I want to make the point that the problem with broken boards in Christian organizations has nothing at all to do with how nice board members may seem.
Perhaps a helpful way to begin to explain this in more detail is by rattling off a number of my personal beliefs based on research and observational truths:
a. Most board members of Christian organizations (whether church elders or trustees) are people of goodwill who sit on the board in order to support the senior pastor or president or the overall cause of the organization—instead of sitting on the board to do the board’s governance role.
b. Very few board members of Christian organizations know what the board’s role is.
c. Since most board members in Christian organizations have no idea of what their responsibility is, they don’t feel responsible to guard the institution’s integrity.
d. Most board members of Christian organizations mistakenly think they have no power to effect any change on the board. They think their duty is to “be one” with the board and not assert their own best thinking.
e. Most Christian board members unquestioningly submit to the authority of the president or senior pastor (i.e, CEO) without realizing they that themselves are legally responsible to supervise the CEO.
f. Most Christian board members have never been trained to hold the president (or senior pastor who may also be the board chair) accountable to run the nonprofit organization (or church) by the holy standards of Christianity.
h. Most board members for Christian organizations are completely unapprised of the board’s three D’s: Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience.
i. Most board members of Christian organizations do not know that their duty to keep the organization on mission cannot be delegated to the president or staff or to a secular lawyer or insurance company who handles their liability.
j. Very few board members–especially Christian board members–realize that they themselves, as persons, are personally responsible to make sure the organization follows all relevant federal and state laws.
k. Very few board members have ever been taught that their “Duty of Obedience” requires them to submit to their own policies.
At Simpson University, it was an “undisputed fact” in my lawsuit that Simpson University regularly violates its written policy to enroll professing Christians only into its traditional undergraduate programs.
In summary, the problem of broken boards has nothing to do with a lack of nice people serving as board members. Nice people are nice to be with, but niceness is not enough to turn a well-meaning Christian into a competent board member. Just as a brain surgeon might be a nice person, but still engage in malpractice, the same holds true for board members.
Lord, I pray for every Christian board member to learn how to govern well.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen