Developing Great Future Board Members

Church leadership isn’t for the faint of heart. That’s no surprise to you because you’ve probably experienced sleepless nights and painful encounters as a result of your willingness to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to church leadership. Sometimes we make the assumption that anyone we recruit into leadership on our church Board will automatically understand the challenges of that role. More often than not, that’s a bad assumption.

Most churches do little to prepare people for this important leadership responsibility. There are obvious biblical examples for leadership preparation, including Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, Paul/Timothy and a host of others. And of course Jesus spent three years preparing twelve disciples. With that kind of example, we need to take stock of our process for developing future leaders.

Church board leadership is too critical a role to be left to chance or to a ‘popularity contest’. A lack of intentionality related to recruiting and preparing new Board members can be harmful to the church, as well as the unprepared new board members themselves!

Here are some questions your current board should address to get started down the path of intentional preparation of future board members:

• How do we identify potential future board members? • What qualifications do we think are essential? • How can we develop leaders who have potential but lack experience? • Who on the current board should be the point person for the future leader development process? • How often do we pray together as a board for God’s guidance in the choice of new board members?

If it’s time to build or fine-tune your new Board member development process, consider these steps:

1. Develop a clear job description or set of expectations for board involvement. This should include all qualifications and characteristics that are essentials in your church context. Take as much time as you need to study scripture together on this topic so that you can have confidence in this foundational set of expectations.

2. Review your church’s polity and history as it relates to choosing new board members. If your historical process is not effective, consider changing the way leaders are chosen. Even though some denominational structures recommend certain procedures, there is often more flexibility than you might think and adding meaningful steps is rarely discouraged. The key is effectiveness rather than “what we’ve always done.”

3. Create an outline of your prospective board member development process. This should include things like identification, observation and information gathering, initial conversation about involvement in the process, formal and informal training and decision-making procedure. When thinking about an appropriate training process, don’t forget that the biblical examples are heavily weighted on the side of experiencing life with the mentor rather than simple content/knowledge transfer. Remember the disciples observed Jesus for quite a while before they were first sent out to spread the good news.

4. Launch the process and evaluate regularly. If you ask questions at every board meeting about how the prospective board member development process is going, your current board will realize that you’re serious about the long-term health of the church.

RESOURCES Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan for Leading the Church by Gene Getz (Moody Press). This book stimulates Bible study and conversation about the roles and responsibilities of church leaders.

“Nonprofit Board Governance: Moving Your Board Members From Myth to Mission”, one day seminar, is available through Of particular interest is the session entitled, “The 24-month Strategy for Turning Board Prospects into Committed Board Members.”

To download the PPT, “Six Best Practices for Recruiting Exceptional Board Members,” go to

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