What to Say When Your Side Loses

by Dan Hotchkiss “The ayes have it.” Curt put down his hand and looked across the table at Priscilla, who had also voted “no.” Priscilla smiled, shrugged, and joined the chatter about how to ask the membership to ratify the board’s decision. Curt was not smiling. By five to two, the board had voted to … Read more

Great Committees

by Dan Hotchkiss In an old cartoon by Charles Addams, a man and his son walk through a park and look at statues, each of which depicts a little clutch of people. “There are no great men, my boy,” the father says, “only great committees.” (The New Yorker, May 5, 1975) We laugh. A great … Read more

Pastor-centered churches

A reader writes: “I’m aware of the movement away from boards and committees in church life–a movement that I believe was first put forward from non-denominational churches such as Willow Creek. This is a quite different way of viewing church life and governance, but I’m not sure how it works. Is this something your book … Read more

Putting staff in charge without losing volunteer commitment

Boards that try to delegate authority to staff often worry that volunteers will lose commitment. It’s a realistic concern: volunteers who handled large responsibilities under the board do sometimes decide, when the board passes the management baton to the head of staff, that they are no longer needed. This used to surprise me. Why would … Read more

Life after Governance Change

by Dan Hotchkiss An anthropologist from Pluto might be forgiven for misclassifying “board and committee meetings” among the sacred rites of Earth religion. Meetings, with their arid liturgy of motions, seconds, minutes, and reports, give comfort and security to some, while driving others—particularly those who like results better than extended conversations about pros and cons … Read more

Should a Staff Member Report to a Committee?

When board- and committee-centered congregations engage paid staff, they sometimes struggle to find language to describe how staff members should relate to one another and to the rest of the organization. Especially if the staff person leads a program area like education, music, or youth work, which is “owned” by a committee, it seems natural … Read more

How I am Different from John Carver

“How is your model different from the Carver model?” Since Governance and Ministry came out, I hear this question now and then, especially from people in the United Church of Canada, the Mennonite Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Association, where John Carver’s Policy Governance is widely known. I have benefited from John Carver’s writings and agree … Read more

Missouri Synod Lutheran review of Governance and Ministry

One of the interesting things about Governance and Ministry is the interest it has generated across the religious spectrum–I’ve heard from Southern Baptists, Catholics, and Orthodox Jews as well as Unitarians, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ. Most recently, I enjoyed reading a recent post by Art Scherer of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. … Read more

Green Eyeshades and Rose-Colored Glasses

Congregational budget-makers frequently divide into two camps that approach the task in different ways. The first camp is likely to include children of the Great Depression, experts in finance, elementary school teachers, and persons anxious about their own money situation. Their first priority is to make sure that the budget balances and that the congregation … Read more

The Art of Governance (book excerpt)

The Alban Institute has published an excerpt of my new book, Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership in this week’s issue of the Alban Weekly e-newsletter (subscribe to its successor, Perspectives.) Religion transforms people; no one touches holy ground and stays the same. Religious leaders stir the pot by pointing to the contrast between life … Read more