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A Balanced Healthy Relationship Between the CEO/Executive Director and the Board of Directors

The concept of teamwork is an often mentioned subject in today’s workplace. Perhaps nowhere is that more necessary than in the relationship of the CEO/Executive Director and the Board of Directors of a Christian camp. Many Christian camp board members have been micro-managers resulting in an operations board, rather than a policy board. As the boards become more policy oriented and more professional people join the ranks, some key issues need resolution in order to build an effective team.It’s important to define the role of each team member.

Board members should make the CEO selection process a team effort.

The most important work a camp or conference board will ever do is selecting an executive director or CEO for the ministry-the board’s only true employee. A good selection process includes several phases. The amount of attention the board gives to preparing for the search process determines the result. Candidates need to have a good understanding of the current ministry, the vision, and core values of the organization-including a self-assessment of the organization through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis.

I still remember very vividly my days as a college student in Southern California during the late 1950s, when the board of trustees met on campus. They all dressed in suits or fancy dresses, appearing remote and mysterious. Ironically, within five years I was directing a startup youth ministry, which included the daunting experience of forming a new board. Not surprisingly, I made some bad choices as a young leader, but thanks to God’s grace and some wonderful board members who mentored me, I matured in both the ministry and my understanding of boards.

Today’s Christian camps and conference centers are very sophisticated ministries reaching thousands of people annually and, therefore, need professional leadership and stewardship at the board level. Excellent boards and their members reach their fund-raising goals by following six principles:

The board member must embrace and champion the vision and mission of the organization, regularly speaking about it to close friends, acquaintances and others who can make a difference in the ministry. It is imperative that the camp you serve be one of the top priorities in your life, after God, family and your church. Ministries occupying a significant priority in a person’s life produce financial results. This truth is reflected in Jesus’ statement, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”

The selection process of board members for camps is often very haphazard. A board member has a friend who has a friend who might be interested in helping the camp and presto, that person now joins the board.

There are some tried and successful methods of identifying, selecting and evaluating board members which can make a difference in the overall effectiveness of your board.

The identification process is extremely important and has three key ingredients:

Evaluation of the Executive Director: Goals, Processes, Resources & Cautions

Evaluation of Christian leaders is a hit and miss proposition. Some organizations and ministries do a very effective job of annually reviewing their Chief Executive Officer. I’m aware of other situations where a leader served for seven years and had to ask for his first evaluation. Many other leaders receive their first evaluation when they’re asked to leave.

There is a better way. I propose that the Board Chairman and a Board Personnel Committee develop an evaluation process, which will be helpful to the Director, as well as provide accountability to the Board of Directors.

I recommend that you consider an evaluation as a way to measure the Director’s effectiveness on bottom line results.

Here are some of the areas for evaluation:

Taking the Lead in Healthy Board – Staff Relationships

Picture this: A member of the camp’s board arrives at camp and encounters the director of maintenance.

“Jim,” begins the board member, “Have you completed the lounge carpeting in the Adult Lodge? Our church’s leaders will be here in two weeks and the lounge must be finished.”

“Well, sir, the director asked me to put that project on hold because our summer staff comes on Friday and the cabin upgrades have to be ready before our campers arrive in 10 days.”

“Is that so?” the trustee answers angrily. “I think you need to reconsider your priorities, Jim. I am a board member and will not be embarrassed by lousy carpet in the lounge when my church arrives!”

Sound far-fetched? Couldn’t happen at your camp? Think again. Camp and conference staff men and women tell me that kind of interaction happens too often, producing results that are not very pretty. Here are six guidelines for avoiding this problem and encouraging healthy relationships between the board and staff:

I’ve invited my colleagues (and CCI veterans) Dan Bolin, Brian Ogne and Neil Fichthorn to talk about how board-director unity on vision issues can be achieved.

DB – Although vision tends to emerge from an individual, not a committee, God-given vision isn’t a one-man show. It must be confirmed and supported by the entire group. Through balance and consensus, board members and the director alike contribute to a fully developed vision.

NF – When there are differences of opinion or viewpoint among the decision- makers, each needs to have an opportunity to express his opinion about where the organization needs to go – without resorting to emotional appeals or outbursts. Therefore, it is usually unwise to use a confrontational style of communication when building consensus for a vision.

DB – It’s OK to disagree, but make sure to practice good stewardship and model Christ’s love so as to preserve the ministry. Don’t get entrenched in your own opinions. When people abandon their commitment to consensus and start talking about “my” vision, someone needs to find out if the Lord’s wisdom – or personal agendas – is prevailing.


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