September/October 2007 Issue
Reflections About Governance
By Paul Magnus
Based on the frequency of requests for coaching and consulting coming from leaders of denominations, churches, ministries and businesses in a wide variety of contexts, it seems that governance may be one of the most pressing issues in leadership this century.
Various research results suggest board governance has the greatest potential for moving an organization from being a good one to being a great one – or the very same group can be the most likely stumbling block to significant advance.
Governance is normally a process that involves two or more wise people who have the influence capacity to make significant decisions together. When there is clarity of the flow of governance, there is a connection of the various parts of the ministry or organization as they work together in defining reality, determining the current high and low points, dreaming about a better future, deciding on the ingredients of such a future, designing the shape of it and then delivering it.
There is biblical and functional allowance for a wide variety of governance flow options – as long as there is clarity of expectations, direction, relationships and accountability for every level of governance.
One of the most critical concerns about governance is that every group should have a significant role and each group’s role is clearly enough shaped so there is not a whole lot of energy invested in overlapping, overstepping, repetition, permission awaiting and redoing.
Board governance is normally done by a group of seven to 15 people who gather and take responsibility for establishing clarity of the overall strategic direction, determining the best practice governance pathway for themselves, building a functional relationship with a ministry leader they nurture and hold accountable, and establishing empowering boundaries for the release of the ministry resources and energy. Board governance takes place only when the board is at an officially called meeting. Policy board governance simply means the enduring values of a board are written and continuously reviewed and are the basis for action.
Paul Magnus is a professor and chair of leadership at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.