Governing boards are responsible for ensuring that the organization fulfills its core mission. This is done by developing strategy, monitoring performance and ensuring financial viability. To do this, the board should have an annual review of the organization and ask some tough questions that are intended to stir thought and steer decision making and planning. 10 Questions a Church Board Should be Asking Itself
10 Questions Your Church Board Should Be Asking
1. What are we good at?
It is important to acknowledge what an organization does well and learn from those strengths. Building off of those strengths allows for continued growth in an area of expertise.
For example, if your Children’s program is experiencing success with kids and parents, you may want to continue to grow the program so it is able to reach more families. Additionally, determine what is working and try to duplicate it in another area.
2. What could we do better?
There is no perfect environment and learning to acknowledge areas of weakness allows for identification of improvement opportunities. For instance, “What population (children, youth, married, senior) needs help?”
As churches grow, programs develop and mature. Identify the member populations that need help. Whether it is financial support (budget dollars), designated leadership or problem resolution – try to pinpoint those populations.
For example, one population that often gets neglected is the older church members. If your elder population isn’t receiving the same level of ministry and support as children, then it may be an opportunity to put a plan in place to develop a program for them.
There is always an opportunity to improve. Whether that improvement is to enhance the volunteer experience, improve the church service production or fine tune internal controls, identify what areas need to be improved and put a plan in place to get it done.
3. What are our measures of success?
There is a saying – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. What this means is it is difficult to hold people accountable for unknown expectations.
For example, it is difficult to hold employees accountable for responding to emails in a timely manner if there are no measures for email response times.
Every organization should have identified critical success factors that steer budgeting and decision making. This supports the old adage, budget toward the vision.
4. Are we asking questions?
There is a saying – don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer. This can be true in many areas of life and the church is no exception. We don’t like to ask because we are afraid of what we might hear.
However, asking questions can help us identify things we could be doing better. Churches should have systems and processes in place to ask all customer groups – members, volunteers and employees – about their experience. This exercise can identify areas that need to be changed or improved. The trick is to focus on improving those things that line up with the church mission.
For example, asking parents about their experience in children’s church may result in a parent requesting better training for the volunteers who handle their infant. This type of request might warrant consideration.
Without asking the question these types of issues may never be identified because there is no forum to express them.
5. Can members tell us why we exist?
A defining vision statement is the blueprint for how an organization achieves its mission. Church members should have an understanding of why (mission) the church exists and what (vision) it is trying to achieve.
This is realized by restating the vision at every opportunity. From the pulpit, new member orientation, volunteer orientation, on the church website, on all promotional materials and in the foyer of the church.
Members who understand what it is the church is trying to achieve will support the efforts with their time and money.
6. Do our volunteers have a good experience?
Volunteers are the engine and free labor for a church. Managing a positive volunteer experience translates into higher volunteer retention. These happy volunteers also share their experience and assist with recruiting other people to help.
Think about those internal systems that volunteers experience and work to improve them.
For example, a lengthy and poorly administered application process may leave volunteer applicants with a less than desirable first impression.
7. Do our employees like working here?
This is a sensitive question because people who work for a church do so because of a calling. And that calling is what drives their passion and dedication to the church. However, church employees deserve to work in a nurturing and supportive environment that provides the same pay and benefits as others with similar job responsibilities.
8. Do members feel engaged with the organization?
Members like to be in the know. They have a vested interest in the church and have an interest in what is going on behind the scenes. The more information that can be shared, the more members feel part of the church community.
Members fund the operation of the church which makes them an important group of people to focus on. The more members are engaged with the organization the more they will commit their resources of time and money.
9. How well are we implementing our strategy?
Strategy requires having a plan. And, this plan necessitates oversight and support in removing barriers that may get in the way of implementation.
The board is not only responsible for developing a strategy; it also has the responsibility to ensure that it is fulfilled. The board should review the strategic plan once a year and determine if timelines are being met and that employees have the necessary resources (people, time and money) to get it done.
10. How are we doing financially?
It requires finances to run a church. And ministries can only fund the facilities, programs and outreach if there are dollars available to support it. Every church should operate with a budget and church leaders should be held accountable for keeping spending within budgetary boundaries. The board should oversee the development of the annual budget and review it several times a year.
Effective boards are committed to helping their church succeed by asking the difficult questions, assessing the answers and putting a plan in place to get it done. And while the answers to these questions might be difficult to hear, it is a necessary requirement for successful turnaround and change that can mean the difference between a church growing or slowly dying.