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Don's Corner

Keeping the Peace

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:

  1. The board’s only employee is the executive director. As we have already discussed, the CEO is the only staff person who reports to the board, and the board should not attempt to supervise any one else.
  2. Board members must know when and where to fill a variety of roles. To emphasize this need, one chairman brought hats labeled “Board” and “Volunteer” to a board meeting. There is a difference! When a board member agrees to serve under a camp staff person, for example, the ‘director” or “trustee” title is set aside. Their job is to work for the staff member, just like any other volunteer.
  3. Don’t make or facilitate “end-runs.” Politely but firmly refuse to participate if staff members try to talk with you regarding organizational issues, including (but especially) the executive director’s role. His or her job performance should be reviewed during their annual evaluation by the board, not by staff.
  4. Occasionally, ask the staff to report on their area of leadership and ministry at the board meeting. This provides an appropriate forum for board members to hear from those people actually leading projects and conducting ministry.
  5. Create opportunities for staff and board fellowship throughout the year. Holiday gatherings, end-of-the-summer bar-b-ques and retirement parties are great times to let staff know they are appreciated. Such occasions also give the staff a chance to know and value board members.
  6. Pray regularly and knowledgeably for the staff and their families. Having directed two Christian ministries, I know that loneliness often accompanies leadership. Knowing people are praying for you is a wonderful blessing, and it helps build significant spiritual relationships within the organization. Lead the way in finding meaningful, appropriate ways to appreciate your staff; pray for them; respect the lines of communication and authority; and know the difference between volunteering to serve a staff member and volunteering to serve the entire organization as a board member. By doing so you’ll foster an authentic community of Christian professionals carrying out effective ministry to people God loves.

Call for the Question

  1. Do you know the appropriate board hat to wear when you visit your camp?
  2. Have you been guilty of end-runs around the executive director?
  3. Are you aware of – and praying regularly for – your staff’s current needs?

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