Church boards, when they’re healthy they are invaluable to a church, but when they’re unhealthy, they can be down right toxic. Unhealthy church boards have been a thorn in the pastor’s side for centuries. I believe they can be traced all the way back to the Bible. Wasn’t it Paul who said God gave him a thorn in the flesh? I can only imagine he was talking about a church board.
I’m kidding, of course. We all know Paul was talking about a worship leader in skinny jeans.
I’ve experienced both sides, healthy and unhealthy. Although I must admit when our church board was unhealthy, I was just a volunteer.
But that didn’t keep me from feeling the sting of a toxic board more than a couple of times.
What’s tricky about a toxic board is you often don’t realize just how toxic it is until you begin trying to change things.
Change always seems to be the catalyst for toxicity.
If you’re having a hard time identifying whether you’re part of a toxic board, let me give you some characteristics.
- They focus on the cost instead of the reward.
One of the most common arguments of a toxic board is the financial cost of change. Yet, they fail to realize the financial cost of not changing.
- They highlight the pain of a few over the benefits of many.
Many times change involves moving people from one position to another or replacing them altogether. A toxic board will often let a ministry suffer rather than hurt one person’s feelings.
- They exaggerate how good things currently are.
You have to say, bless their heart, because they truly believe things are good. Attendance and giving can be steadily declining, the roof may be leaking, and one of your Sunday School teachers may be sleeping during service, but they will still find a way to spin it into a positive in order to avoid change.
- They grab onto the one thing that might go wrong instead of all the things that could go right.
They will never bring up all the things that could go right, and if you try to bring it up they will find a problem with it. They will always focus on the things that could go wrong.
- They will try to undercut the credibility, authority, and experience of those leading the change.
If all else fails, don’t be surprised when they turn their attacks on those who are trying to lead change. Often that’s the senior pastor, and often the toxic board will win.
Have you ever been part of a toxic board? What were the symptoms? Leave a comment to let us know, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.