Chuck Blaisdell, Former Regional Minister
Christian Church of Northern California-Nevada
9260 Alcosta Blvd, C-22
San Ramon CA 94583

"On Board"

Some Observations about Church Boards, Church Sizes, Church Styles
Based on my work with congregations and the work and research of others, I would offer the following as food for thought

Among congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), congregational Boards tend to have in practice three functions: information, administration, and policy-making. These functions also often correlate with church size and "style" as well

The "Informational" function....

Assumption: The purpose of the church board is to disseminate information quickly and efficiently to all members of the congregation

This presupposes that it is in fact possible to get information to everyone in this manner in consistently satisfactory way. Practically speaking, this means that either the church is relatively small -- under about 75 in worship -- and composed primarily of several "family cell groups," or the church board is relatively large (theoretically composed of 20-40% of the average worship attendance)

Some implications: 1) this sort of church board tends to reinforce the current size of the church; 2) this sort of board makes it more difficult to assimilate newcomers fully into the texture of church life and activities; 3) some functional committees work, some don’t; most of the real decision-making happens through certain "family cells" and "opinion-makers" in the church’s life -- which can discourage serious effort by committees; 4) often in this situation, the pastor functions more as a chaplain to the current members, is not expected to have as a priority adding new members, and much of the leadership of the church is vested in the "informal decision-makers" and the board itself.

The "Administrative" function....

Assumption: The purpose of the church board is to implement particular ways of managing and deploying church programs and resources.

This presupposes that the church is of such a size that a church board can in fact do this kind of "hands-on administration," always or often functioning as a "committee of the whole." This kind of board works best when the church is at about 75 to 125 or so average worship attendance.

Some implications: 1) If or as the church does in fact grow by adding new members, there is more "administration" to do and board leaders can get easily burnt-out; 2) The minister may find him- or herself spending more and more time being a liaison between board members, spending more and more time un-snagging communications or preventing misunderstandings; 3) Committees can often get to feeling "dis-empowered" when the board re-visits many details of the work they’ve already done.

The "Policy Making" function....

Assumption: The purpose of the church board is to give broad oversight to overall church policy, direction and mission, and to work closely with ministerial staff as they implement that direction and mission.

This presupposes that there is a high level of trust among members and of ministerial staff. It acknowledges that the nitty-gritty work of administering church life and program is in the hands of the committees as they work with staff. This sort of board -- and church! -- expects, hopes for, and is committed to numerical growth. This sort of board works best and most appropriately in congregations of 150+ in worship and which are both growing and committed to growth.

Some implications: 1) Committees and committee members are and feel more freed and empowered to do the work and ministry that they are committed to and which has been assigned to them; 2) Pastor and Board can spend "quality time" reflecting on the overall mission and direction of the church; 3) the pastor can be an informational and motivational resource for committees -- rather than simply a communications liaison -- because committees are truly empowered to do what they have been called to do; 3) There is a recognition in a growing congregation that there must be a variety of venues of communication among all members -- therefore new members are more easily assimilated in the church life.