Church Governance – Coaching Session


We have learned so much about this, you know we were careless with term limits before, we are nut cases about term limits now! We have term limits. I could build a case and I could convince most of you, the best thing for a Board is term limits. And not just because it gives you the obvious opportunity to off-ramp a problematic Board member with dignity, but the discipline that it invokes upon you to be in non-stop search mode for who the next great board members are going to be… that discipline is worth the pain of term limits in and of itself.

Last Thursday night we had a long, just fantastic elder meeting. I’m looking around the table realising half the people around this elder table I didn’t even know were in our church. But because of our elder selection process and because we have to graduate people as often as we do, we have to be pushing into the circles of the church that we don’t normally go and you find these people who are three… so they’re three months away they just need a shoe shine! They just need to know a little bit more. You need to find out a little bit more about them. But they’re real close to being able to be a first year elder. And then by year two they become like really good elders. By year three they’re rock stars. By year four you’re like, “I can’t imagine our church without them!”

Two of the three that we’re cycling off in June, if I talk enough about them, if I talk thirty seconds more about them right now I’ll get emotional. I wouldn’t have seen them as elders either, these two of the three that I’m talking about, I wouldn’t have seen them as elders at first. When we finally interviewed them I thought, ‘maybe’. First year… rarely talked. Second year… started coming on. Third year… took on enormous responsibility and grew like crazy. Year four… I’m like, “Don’t leave!” Okay. That’s how leadership development works.

In the pro’s, let’s talk pro basketball right now… you don’t know the first year any pro basketball player steps on the court, you don’t know where they can wind up in five years, because pro basketball is not just about skills, it’s a lot about the ‘want to’ factor, who’s going to play… how many games does a pro basketball player play? Eight, yeah! So who is going to discipline themselves better to play over eighty two games? So a lot of the first round picks who everyone thinks is going to be a superstar, they can’t cut it over 82 games, they play half speed at some of the games, three quarter speed at the other ones. Then you find some of these young guys who come in, they’re going, “I’m going to get better every game!” Okay, five years in, they’re superstars! There are some elders who aren’t that impressive when you first bring them on, and something in them goes, “I’m going to get better every meeting, I’m going to read everything I can read, I’m going to do everything I can do.”

So I’m a big proponent of term limits because it gives you a dignified way to off-ramp elders and you need… if you’ve never needed that before you will need it someday. I guarantee you if you don’t have a dignified off-ramp system the day is coming when you’re going to go, “It’s the biggest mistake I made in leadership”. And if you don’t invoke the discipline of finding new great elders you will leave so many people in the seats who could have been your strongest proponents. Once someone serves as an elder they know your heart, they know the inner workings of the church, they’re the strongest advocate for the vision of your church for the rest of their life, even if they only ever serve for four years.

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