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. Therefore, in this blog 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—instead of sitting on the board for the purpose of fulfilling the board’s 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 nurture the integrity of the organization’s soul.
d. Most board members of Christian organizations mistakenly think the president (or senior pastor) is responsible for everything, including the good welfare of the board.
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. Many board members are completely unapprised of the board’s three D’s: Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience.
i. Most board members do not know that their Duty of Care cannot be delegated to the president or staff. Only the board can care for the organization at the governance level.
j. Very few board members–especially Christian board members–realize that they have a legal “Duty of Loyalty” to the organization’s mission. Every Christian mission calls for truthfulness and love, yet rare is the board who upholds a missional standard in the board’s decision-making.
For Christians, loyalty to the Lord in the form of faithfulness to the Lord should be the number one (#1) priority on any given board (See Exodus 1-2, Daniel 3, Daniel 6, Acts 4). When Christian boards are loyal to the Lord, they are automatically set, as individual members, to fulfill their Duty of Loyalty to the entity’s Christian mission.
k. Almost every Christian board member intuitively knows that boards are required to submit to all applicable state and federal laws. But very few board members have ever been taught that their “Duty of Obedience” requires them to submit to their policies as well, especially when those policies are elements of employment contracts.
At Simpson University, I don’t think any board member takes seriously the Duty of Obedience. To provide just one example of why I say this, it’s an “undisputed fact” in the lawsuit that Simpson University regularly violates its own policy to admit professing Christians only into its traditional undergraduate programs. Approximately 62% of Simpson’s traditional undergraduates, in fact, are athletes, and those athletes were recruited without regard to faith.
I firmly believe that the board knows the truth, yet Simpson’s website falsely states:
Simpson University’s criteria for admission are based on the university’s desire and commitment for each student to find success in their academic and faith endeavors. Acceptance decisions are based on a potential for academic success, an articulation of a commitment to and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and evidence that the individual will thrive in a Christ-centered academic community.
l. It is not uncommon for boards to be oblivious. In my consulting work, I encounter Christian board members–who are as nice as people can be–humbly confessing that they have never been equipped with even the most basic level of board training.
There are many observational truths that I could list in addition to the ones above, and I plan to make those known over time as I write a book on the importance of Christian boards and godly governance. For now, I will end here, reiterating my point that the problem of broken boards has nothing at all to do with a lack of nice people serving as Christian board members. Nice people are nice to be with, but niceness is not enough to make a well-meaning Christian a competent board member.
Broken boards, in fact, are usually comprised of nice people.
Lord, please convert our niceness into moral courage. Help us all to act with integrity as Christ followers, even in the face of opposition. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen