A healthy and growing church is one that has a healthy Church Board or Elder Board. Often church boards or elder boards don’t really understand their role, responsibility and authority and see themselves as the people who run the church. 

There’s one simple rule all boards need to remember – the Church Board is responsible for WHAT the church will do and the staff is responsible for HOW it gets done. The proper role of a Church Board or Elder Board is as follows:

  1. Confirm and maintain the mission and vision of their church. This is 90% of the Board’s responsibility. Every church has a mission that’s at the root of their calling from God. That mission is also at the root of their non-profit status. It’s very important that churches stay focused and on track with their stated mission – not only to maintain their non-profit status but most importantly, to stand before our Lord and have Him say, “well done good and faithful servant.”  The Board is responsible to make sure that “WHAT” the church is doing is in line with what God is calling the church to do and is also in sync with the stated mission of the church on your non-profit filings.
  2. Long-Range dreaming. About 5% of the responsibility of the Board is to make sure the church has long-range plans that will set the church up to succeed for generations, not just the next year or two. We recommend holding periodic (every year or two) long-range dreaming retreats where everyone asks and tries to answer where they see the church in 5, 10 and perhaps 20 years. What’s the long-range goals.  Once these are established, the Board should be asking the staff what they are doing each year with the short-term goals to build toward those long-range goals.
  3. Controlling heresy. Hopefully this is only about 1-3% of the responsibility of the Board.  Still, every church Board is responsible for ensuring that the teaching of the senior pastor or teaching team in the church remains true to the Word of the Lord (the Bible). Church members should feel confident in knowing there is a church Board that monitors the teaching of the church for biblical accuracy and adherence. Members should also know they have an avenue, via Board members, to bring questions about the teaching. One of the best roles a Board member can provide to the senior pastor is someone he or she can count on to listen to the preaching and provide feedback…and to be the senior pastor’s first line of support for anyone wanting to give the senior pastor an earful about his/her teaching. 
  4. Church Discipline. This too should hopefully be only 1-3% of the Board member’s responsibility. Church Board members are required to step in and provide discipline  within the church staff, especially in the case of the senior pastor. When senior pastors have a lapse in moral judgement, it’s the role of the Board to step in and determine the discipline required to keep the church on track. 

Too often, church boards are involved in day-to-day operations of the church. This presents a variety of difficulties given the authority of a Board member and how that can be exercised in unhealthy ways when acting as an employee or volunteer of the church.

If you’d like more information on the role, responsibility and authority of a Church Board or Elder Board, we’d recommend attending one of our Advanced Leadership collaborative classes. Classes are six weeks long, are free and have been created to bring together groups of about 12-16 pastors into groups and share ideas in advanced leadership and best practices. Follow this link for more information: https://bit.ly/ChurchGoalsClass