How Self-Policing Can Help a Negative Church Board Member Become Positive - Leaders.Church



How Self-Policing Can Help a Negative Church Board Member Become Positive

What in the world do you do with a church board member who goes sideways in a meeting? How can you help that negative church board member become positive?

Here’s an idea.  How about the church board self-police?  Ever heard of that?

Self-policing can help a negative church board member become positive. This is not a term we commonly use when thinking of boards, but bear with me.

If a church board is to be all God wants it to be, then the individual board members must make sure that the collective unit functions rightly.

In this blog, I want to take some time to talk about how individual board members help each other and the pastor, by self-policing.

In this post we’ll look at the following:

What is self-policing?
Why is self-policing the right thing to do?
Other helpful blogs for the pastor and church board member

Back a couple of years ago I was in conversation with Jerry, a good friend of mine who, at the time, served as a church board member with a great church and great pastor. We’ll call him Pastor Jake.

The pastor and board were going through the regular routine of monthly board meetings, doing the business of the church.

All was good, until on Tuesday night it all went sideways. Or should I say, Board Member Billy Bob went sideways.

Pastor Jake had proposed action on ABC Ministry, which the board had been mulling over for the last three months. This was the board meeting to take action.

All was good until Billy Bob took a hard turn and started attacking the idea, the pastor, the church, you name it, he was in attack mode. We’re talking lousy attitude, crummy spirit and just all around “this is not the way to act as a board member.”

Everybody around the table saw it, and experienced it. No one said anything, nothing at all!

All the board members were wondering, “What is Pastor Jake going to say or do?”

And therein was the problem. Who’s supposed to deal with “sideways Billy Bob?” Well, Pastor Jake is for sure!

The next day, Pastor Jake had Jerry in to talk. They really were very good friends outside the board room. But this was NOT a friendly chat.

Jake wanted to know what in the world Jerry was thinking, just sitting there like a bump on a log, not coming to the defense of the board and the pastor on the subject that the whole group had been discussing for months.


Jerry didn’t know what to say other than he thought that as the pastor, Jake would be the one to address what Billy Bob had done. Certainly, Jake would address it, but he also made it clear that the very first line of addressing should have come from a fellow board member of Billy Bob’s… a.k.a. Jerry.

Once Jake and Jerry talked it through, it certainly made sense to Jerry. However, he had never been taught that when things like this happen, it is his role as a board member to step in and… self-police his fellow board members.

After that conversation, he knows it now! Jerry now understands that self-policing can help a negative church board member become positive.

I’m going to use the fictitious Pastor Jake and board members Jerry (the good board member who polices) and Billy Bob (negative church board member who needs policing.)

(NOTE: Want to know the proper roles and responsibilities for Church Boards? Click here)

Guidelines for church boards & pastors

What is self-policing?

In the church board context, self-policing is the act of individual board members holding each other accountable for their actions in and out of the boardroom.

When Billy Bob threw off the discussion of ABC Ministry, with a crummy attitude and terrible spirit, someone other than the pastor had to be the first one to speak up. In this situation, it probably meant Jerry was the guy!

How does self-policing work? Using the example with Jerry and Billy Bob, how should Jerry go about approaching Bob?

First, if something inappropriate happens in the board room, i.e. bad attitude or bad spirit, Jerry should question it right there.

Sometimes it isn’t until afterwards that everybody, except Billy Bob, realizes that something went really wrong. If it is such that it is not caught until after the fact, then if I were Jerry, I would go to Pastor Jake and confirm the perception of the wrong that happened.

Assuming Pastor Jake agrees, then Jerry needs to arrange to meet with Billy Bob and process what Jerry observed at the board table in a Matthew 18 manner, one brother talking with another.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, that will put the issue to bed. Case closed.

However, if it doesn’t bring reconciliation, then Jerry should take another board member with him.

Depending on what Pastor Jake would want, it may be that Jerry, Billy Bob and Jake all need to meet. For sure, the pastor and board cannot let what has been forward progress on ABC Ministry get highjacked because of Billy Bob’s response.

If that doesn’t work, then the whole board needs to revisit what happened. Billy Bob will need to reach a point of repentance for his response in order for the board to move forward. And you’re hopeful he does.

This is self-policing.  And this is how self-policing can help a negative church board member become positive. All of this is done WITH Pastor Jake’s knowledge.

And let me be clear on this one issue. This is not about Billy Bob having an opinion different than the other board members on ABC Ministry. This is ENTIRELY about his attitude and spirit, both of which were bad, bad, bad.

Disagreements will come up from time to time at the board table. How we conduct ourselves in disagreement is everything to the pastor who guards unity.

(NOTE: Want to know the proper roles and responsibilities for Church Boards? Click here)

Guidelines for church boards & pastors

Why is self-policing the right thing to do?

Once a board member does something wrong, whose job do we normally think it is to “fix” the board member?

The pastor, of course. WRONG!

Self-policing is right because it prevents silos from operating around the board table. It is right, because it prevents the pastor from being the bad guy. Pastor Jake in this case, is a big boy and can take the heat.

However, board member Jerry necessarily should deflect that heat. And when Jerry does the calling out, then it is peer resolution, not top-down.

Board member Jerry is the healthy, functioning board member who is the healing ointment at the board table.

Board member Billy Bob needs to come around from being a caustic board member who infects others, to being a healthy, functioning board member like Jerry.

Unhealthy attitudes and approaches to ministry cannot go unchecked. That’s why self-policing is right.

So, how can self-policing can help a negative church board member become positive? I hope you hear that no person is an island unto themselves, not a lead pastor and not an individual board member.

The board members individually function as a collective group. And in doing so, they must check and balance each other.

Overwhelmingly and almost 100% of the time, board members will flow seamlessly with the pastor and with each other.

But when an occasion rears its ugly head and a wrong spirit or wrong attitude begins to infect conversation around the table, the number one line of defense is for other board members to call it out first.

When you have a board that self-polices itself, you’ll see the church move forward with the greatest of unity.

Your pastor will thrive, not because they have a bunch of “Yes” people around the table; to the contrary. They will thrive because they know the highest level of accountability exists between board members and the pastor.

And if you’ve read much of our blog content, you’ll know what I’ll suggest next. Don’t wait for something bad to happen. Pray ahead of time.

When board members are regular in prayer for each other and their pastor, it makes self-policing a way easier thing to do.

You’ve prayed, and in doing so, you love your fellow board member. Submission to each other comes way easier when the hard work in prayer has been done in advance.

Self-police. You’ll be really, really glad you did. And the church will move forward faster as a result!

Along these lines, here are some other helpful blogs you might find of interest for the pastor and church board member:

Looking for other helpful blogs on the pastor and church boards?

Church Government: Democracy or Theocracy
Church Board Members: Disagreeing without Drawing Blood?
10 Steps to Navigating Change with Your Church Board
How to Set the Pastor’s Salary and Benefits
How to Equip Church Board Members
Top 3 Responsibilities of Every Church Board
The 5 Investments a Church Board Needs to Make in Their Pastor
7 Essential Purposes of the Church Board
Why Invest in the Church Board?

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