When personal loyalties and ministry responsibilities collide

By law, board members are supposed to put the best interest of the church above all personal considerations — but how is that even possible? Board members in most churches play many other roles throughout the church, and many board decisions affect them and those they love. Potential conflicts of interest arise whenever a board … Read more

Who Owns a Congregation?

Comparisons are useful but tricky. New Testament writers compare the church to a human body, a herd of sheep, a bride, and a vineyard. Synagogues are often likened to a house, a tent, or an extended family. None of these analogies is meant to be exact or literal—a church may act in some ways like … Read more

Conflicts of Interest

“Conflict of interest” is an ugly phrase, but it’s time to say it, lay it on the table, and deal with it as a normal part of life. Everybody who is not a hermit manages conflicting interests all the time. Congregations’ awkwardness and silence on the subject only makes us vulnerable. Many congregations accept practices … Read more

Bibliography on congregational governance

Here’s a list of some of the books and other resources I have found most helpful and provocative as I have thought about how congregations can best organize their boards, clergy, staff, and volunteers to envision and carry out powerful ministries: BoardSource. Many resources available at www.boardsource.org. Carver, John, and Miriam Mayhew Carver, Reinventing Your … Read more

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned at Work

Around the board table, each leader brings a point of view rooted in subcultures he or she belongs to. Subcultures of sex, race, age, and nationality are often recognized. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator can help a group to acknowledge and “normalize” such differences. We have barely yet begun to see how powerful our occupational subcultures … Read more

Ask Alban: Re-inventing Boards that Bore

Q: Our board spends too much time reviewing and approving work that should be done by staff and committees. We know we shouldn’t micromanage, but we can’t seem to help it. How can we change? A: You have a lot of company. Most boards criticize themselves for “micromanaging” and rightly so. This happens because tiny … Read more

A Discerner’s Guide to Congregational Governance

The envelope please! Runner-up for Most Influential Book as rated by American clergy is… “Ladies and gentlemen, will it be a book on spiritual practices? Biblical studies? The ever-popular ‘How to Blame Lay Leaders’? No, the topic of the second most important book this year is [drum roll] congregational administration!” Who’d have thought it? For … Read more

The Post-Construction Blues

Few projects excite and galvanize a congregation more than a new building or a major renovation. People complain about construction delays, capital campaigns, and the general din and dust, but their blood pumps, their wallets loosen, and their enthusiasm rises. Lyle Schaller went so far as to generalize that congregations that build capital are happier … Read more