Monthly Archives: September 2009

Measurements for Faithfulness and Accountability

Over the last two months, we have been conducting a thorough review of our training program for Church Boards (better known as Best Practices for Church Boards). For four years, over 50 Churches and over 300 church leaders have participated in our Board training initiatives. Throughout the experience, we have learned more and more about the unique dynamics of Church leadership. This has led us to elevate the training to higher levels. Beginning this Fall at the November 7th Best Practices for Church Boards Basic Workshop we intend to present a comprehensive schedule of Workshops that will address a distinct checklist of Church Board competencies. The Fall workshop will address several of those competencies as it has in the past. But, our intention is to present a cycle of Basic workshops that will engage the full Church Board leadership experience. More on that to come …

But, for now, one of the key issues that emerged in our study is that Church Board leaders often struggle to define their key responsibility. In their book, Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, Richard Chait, William Ryan and Barbara Taylor identify three functions or types of Board governance. The “bedrock” task of a Board, given within Type 1 (Fiduciary mode) is to “ensure that nonprofit organizations are faithful to mission, and accountable for performance…” (p. 7).

To “ensure” faithfulness and accountability calls for a board to be able to measure strategic goals. On the surface, many Church Boards struggle to know how to measure the goals, but there is a deeper issue at stake: to know what goals are to be measured.

In an article entitled Monitoring Your Organization’s Performance: The Dash Board Instrument (Board Matters, Article No. 20, www.governance.com.au), Tom Holland says that Boards must identify the information that they need staff to give them on a regular basis so that they can adequately monitor and evaluate the success of the organizational mission. However, Boards are often frustrated with a myriad of distractions: data overload, inappropriate levels of detail in information, information with an administrative rather than missional perspective … unproductive information which lacks strategic relevance.

Holland continues by presenting the concept of a Dashboard as an analogy of an instrument that a Board creates to monitor the critical measurements that gauge the healthy progress of the core and essential mission at hand. To build an effective “Dashboard” however, the Board must have a clear idea of what constitutes critical measures.

In order to do that, Boards must develop one of the most vital skills they can exercise as a group: the ability to ask strategic questions. There is an old axiom that a person is to be judged by their questions rather than their answers. In his eNewsletter, Leadership Wired, (Questions That Sustain Your Leadership) John Maxwell writes, the willingness to ask questions coupled with the discipline to seek out answers separates leaders from followers … influencers question assumptions, inquire about the environment around them, and probe into the future … they have an insatiable appetite to learn, and they convert their knowledge to action at light speed.

For Church Boards, there are a number of questions that must be asked:

1. What are the top priorities of our mission as a congregation? What is it that God has for us to do?

2. What key aspects of our ministry do we want to monitor that will make a difference in people’s lives and advance the kingdom of God?

3. What are the best ways to display the outcome of our ministry efforts?

4. What will we do with the reports we receive? How will we celebrate the fruit or address the deficiencies of our ministry?

I would imagine that the answers to the first two questions are the most important and deserve the careful and prayerful reflection of Church Leaders. The Great Commission that defines the strategic purpose of the Church is focused on people rather than programs. We are to “make disciples” which means that our task is measured in terms of human life rather than organizational structure. And, the benchmarks of a successful ministry are identified best by naming names and gathering testimonies.

In his book, Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal provides an illustration of the sort of measurements that reflect a people, rather than a program, development culture. Some of the items he sets behind the dashboard as a gauge for ministry include (adapted from his list):

  • Number of people reporting improved marriages over time
  • Number of people reporting improved family life over time
  • Number of people engaged in strengths identification and development
  • Number of people who have identified a sense of God’s calling and have created and are following a life development plan
  • Number of people serving other people in some venue
  • Number of people practicing intentional blessing strategies for those around them
  • Number of people being mentored
  • Number of people serving as mentors
  • Number of people able to articulate life mission .. core values
  • Number of people reporting improvements in spiritual life over time
  • Number of people growing in financial giving to kingdom causes
  • Number of people pursuing job skill … ministry skill development
  • Number of people reporting addiction recovery progress

The list Church Boards construct must reflect their church’s mission and vision and be appropriate to both. The consequences of the exercise will determine the measurements within the strategic questions bringing insurance of mission faithfulness and performance accountability. As McNeal writes: to pull this off requires a retooling, a reallocation of every resource the church and church leaders employ … prayer, people (both leaders and ministry constituents), time, finances, facilities and technology. But, once retooled, the Board fulfills its calling to be focused and engaged in the greatest venture of all.


Continuing Education At Its Best

The end of summer encourages us to reflect on the ‘harvest’ that our work in these past months is producing. I do know that 250 pastors, lay people and emerging leaders were involved in various courses and other leadership development opportunities from May to August. This included the Smarter Families Canada workshops.

I think for me one of the most significant offerings was the Addictions and Recovery Ministry Conference we 2009-06-addiction-banner-02co-sponsored June 26-27. Sixty-five people registered and enjoyed two days of high-powered interaction with medical and ministry experts from Canada and the United States. The Liver and Intestinal Research Centre directed by Dr. Frank Anderson provided both financial support and organization leadership.

As I participated in the sessions, the presentations by Dr. Paul Earley, Medical Director at Talbot Recovery Campus, Atlanta, Georgia, gave me a whole new perspective on human addictions. From his twenty years of experience in treating addictive diseases and providing therapy to assist in recovery, he spoke with compassion, realism, and immense professional credibility. When he revealed that 6-7% of people in our society have a genetic disposition that makes them vulnerable to addictive behaviour, it astonished me. As he demonstrated how critical family history is in the development of addictive behaviour, the role of parents in breaking the chain of addiction emerged as a critical element.

One of his colleagues, Woody Roberts, is involved in the spiritual dimension of treatment and recovery. This might surprise you, but both Dr. Earley and Dr. Roberts asserted several times that addictions and recovery are at root a spiritual matter. Without acknowledged dependence upon God, the chances of an addict recovering from this behaviour are rather slim.

About 8% of Canadians wrestle with some kind of addiction – alcohol, drugs, gambling, work, pornography, food, videogames, etc. So within a congregation of 200 people, 10 to 20 of them are probably wrestling with addictive behaviours of some sort. Individuals from all socio-economic sectors are affected.

By offering this conference we assisted pastoral leaders, chaplains, counselors, medical practitioners to understand the nature of addiction, its spiritual dimensions, and the challenge of persistent recovery. This is continuing education at its best.

Already plans are underway to offer a second conference. But we realize that conferences, as helpful as they may be do not provide a sustaining training model. So we are exploring ways and means of offering focused workshops in specific aspects of recovery ministry so that ministry leaders can discern creative ways to initiate these kinds of important spiritual services in their churches and local communities. We desire to impact our society with the Gospel in this way.

Your financial support is helping to implement initiatives like this, ones that make a practical and significant difference. Thank you for your commitment to sustain and increase Northwest’s ministry.

I am sure you are wondering how we are doing financially at this point in our fiscal year (December is our year-end). God is faithful. Our investments continue to generate the income we require for our operating budget. Our gift income is at the same level it was a year ago at this time. During these last four months (September to December) we will require $65,000 in financial gifts from supporters to meet our budget. This is the same amount we raised during this period in 2008. If you can assist, please let me know.

There is another important way that you can invest in our ministry for the long term and that is through an estate gift. As you plan the disposition of your assets, perhaps you would include in those instructions a gift of 2-5% for Northwest. Normally such gifts are placed in our endowment, with the income supporting our annual budget. This is one of the most important investments you could make for Kingdom impact.

Thank you for your prayers. I trust you will enjoy all of God’s wonderful blessing in this Fall season. It will be very busy for us as we engage a new academic year.