Elders are members of the Church Board and often asked to serve on other church committees and boards. (Even though the Church Manual lists elders as Church Board members, in large churches, for practical reasons, often only a select number of elders serve on the Church Board.)
According to the Church Manual, the pastor is the chair of the Church Board although the pastor may designate an elder as Church Board chair. (Neither the Church Board nor the Church Business Meeting (on recommendation of the Nominating Committee) have the authority to elect the elder as chair of the Church Board. Only the pastor has the authority to designate the elder as chair of the Church Board.)[i] If you serve as chair of the Board or other committees, this section provides helpful guidance.
Chairing a board or committee
In order to fulfill their mission, churches need quality boards and committees. Effective leadership enables the church board to be a positive influence on the mission of the congregation. If you are asked to chair the board, these steps will help you provide effective leadership of the board. Even if you do not chair the board, this section offers valuable information for all board members.
· If the pastor asks you to serve as the board chair, you need to work closely with the pastor. Both of you need to know the agenda and review it before the meeting.
· Have an agenda—the agenda should be prepared and ideally distributed with the supporting material before the board meeting.
· Give others the opportunity to submit items for the agenda; be certain to have a cut-off time for submission.
· Understand in advance what each agenda item is all about. For example, if the deacon or another person submits an item labeled “building needs,” the chair needs to know what that means. Does “building needs” mean expanding the building, major repairs to the building, or replacing a door? Is the individual submitting this item prepared to identify the needs and suggest some solutions? If a room needs new carpeting, is sufficient information (price, color choice, etc.) available so that the board can make a decision? If sufficient information is not available, the discussion may be time-consuming without a decision being made.
· Have a designated period of time for the board meeting. If properly planned, board meetings usually do not need to be longer than about 90 minutes. The board has the authority to designate the length of its meetings. If board members know the planned ending time, they will collectively work for that goal.
· Do not ask at the beginning or end of the meeting “Does anyone have anything else?” While the question sounds helpful, it opens the doors to unplanned discussion and potential conflict. If the item is important, the appropriate individuals or groups should have prepared in advance. If someone has an emergency item, that person should talk to the chair before the meeting begins.
· Remind the board members that they should be able to state their opinions on the agenda items and that the discussion is confidential. Board members are not authorized to reveal board discussions outside of the church board setting.
Do you have a question we have not listed?
A: If you have a question, email it. If it is of general interest, we may post the response on the website or refer you to your local conference. In some instances, we may be able to give a personal response.
For additional reading, please refer to the following:
The authoritative source is the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (latest edition). Look in the index under “Board, church.” Visit the Resource listing to find out how obtain the manual.
Barry Oliver, “Effective committee meetings: a guide for congregations,” Ministry, December 2006. Available at www.ministrymagazine.org. Written by a church administrator, this article addresses the role of the chairperson, secretary, and members of committees or boards.
G. Russell Seay, Jr., “Productive board meetings,” Ministry, February 1986. Available at www.ministrymagazine.org. Written by a pastor for pastors, but all individuals who chair a board or committee will find it helpful.
Clarence V. Leach, “Building Stronger Church Boards,” Ministry, September 1947. Available at www.ministrymagazine.org. Written by a conference administrator for pastors, a helpful article, though published many years ago.
Maxwell G. Townend, “Boring board meetings?”, Ministry, August 1996. Available at www.ministrymagazine.org. Written by a church administrator who points out that church leaders can learn from examples of public meetings and committees.
[i] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 19th ed., rev. 2015 (Silver Spring, MD: Secretariat of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2016). Pages 32, 74 & 131 state that the pastor may ask an elder to chair the church board.