Living a Spiritual Life in the Midst of the Daily Hustle

If you’re like me – a result-oriented person and lover of ticking off that task that’s been scheduled in my bullet journal – then you’re likely to understand this tension. It’s the tension of there is lots to do today AND I need to spend time alone seeking and hearing God.

Henri Nouwen said this:

Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.

If you were to google the question What does it mean to live a spiritual life? you’d get a variety of opinions. For me, I think living a spiritual life is a couple of things. First, it’s the yes response to Jesus’ invitation to come and follow Him. Second, it’s a way of life (habits and practices and beliefs and choices) that we learn about through our interaction with the Scriptures (Bible) and by being in a Christian community. Third, it’s attentiveness to our living relationship with Jesus Christ. And fourth, it’s attentiveness to our soul and its needs.

Jesus modelled the need to create space for time alone with the Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, NIV)

I find it fascinating that Jesus got up before the crack of dawn, the typical time the entire household would awake, and he left the house, going off to a solitary place. Isn’t it interesting that he had to leave the house and go off to a solitary place?  Was that because the house was full of people and distractions? We don’t really know why he chose to the leave the house. I feel fortunate to have spaces within my home where in the colder months I can retreat to. But in the summer, I love to sit on the deck in my backyard. I especially like to be up watching the sunrise in the summer months.

But wherever that “go to” place is, it’s important for us to find it and to be intentional to prioritize time alone with our loving Heavenly Father – the one who “speaks peace to his faithful people” (Ps 85:8). The one from whom our joy and strength and refreshing springs come (Ps 84:5).

Curiously, the text in Mark does not tell us what Jesus’ prayers comprised of that day or what the Father may have communicated to him or how the fellowship in that time was within the Triune God. Oh, how sweet and hard those times must have been. We can only imagine!

Now if Nouwen is right, and I think he is, if we do not have a practice of Solitude in our life, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. And if you find yourself longing for more and have been unable to put your finger on what’s missing, perhaps this is it.

So I would invite you to spend some time reflecting on and answering the following questions:

  1. Am I living the spiritual life I long to be living? Why or why not?
  2. Is God calling me deeper and inviting me to come away and be with Him? What does that look like?
  3. Do I have a place to go or do I need to create a space to go to?
  4. Do I need to get up earlier in order to have solitude or might I need to make some other adjustments in my schedule because the hustle of life isn’t slowing down any time soon? What adjusments might I need to make?
  5. In keeping with the principle of just start and start small when making changes, what can I start doing, based on what the Spirit has revealed during my reflection time, that will put me on the path of living the spiritual life I long to be living?

When making adjustments in our life, it can be challenging. Hence the reason to just start and start small. I would suggest that you set up a goal for yourself for the next six weeks (that should be doable by us all!). Pick your start and end date. And as part of this small change you’ll be making, make it a practice to weekly review your commitment to the goal and make adjustments as needed to keep you on track. If you’re a tracker like me, make it a daily practice to tick the box!

And if you want to learn more about Solitude, there are a number of authors that write on it. Authors such as Henri Nouwen, Ruth Haley Barton, and Richard Foster, to name a few.

Wishing you a day in which Solitude is a sweet part,

Reverend Carmen

What Jesus Gives You Cannot Be Taken Away

For a couple of weeks now the album Blackout by Steffany Gretzinger has been playing on repeat. It’s been one of those in season albums for me as every song on this album has had some sort of meaning and ministered to me.

And just today, as I was putting together an Ikea nightstand that’s been sitting in the box for about two months just waiting until I had time, I was listening to the album mentioned above and her song Blackout was just another Aha moment for me – hence today’s blog post.

This is the song’s description from her website:

Blackout heralds the message that even when circumstances bend towards chaos, light that shines from the inside out cannot be dimmed. 1

The last few months have been hard as I have journeyed through dealing with a person who was out to do me reputational harm. He likes to focus his energy on doing everything he can to harass me, including using passive aggressive behaviours, bullying tactics and name calling.  And because I believe God has called me to take a stand and to endure in this volunteer position, I am staying the course and will continue to do so. (No, not in an abusive way!)

Staying the course has taught and reminded me of many things. It has taught me to be patient and to continue to cultivate a deep reliance on God. When someone falsely says something about you, I think our natural tendency is to want to fight back, to want justice – Now! But I’ve remained remarkably calm during these last few months- that’s a God thing! In addition to that, I have asked the Lord to reveal to me any areas that my heart needs to change and any lessons I need to learn during this season. I don’t want this opportunity wasted if I can grow in and through it, especially as God continues to call me to deeper refining and deeper levels of trust.

I’ve been reminded once again that God is my righteousness and His righteousness cannot be taken away.  The throne room is always open to those longing to connect with God. I can’t tell you how many times I have leaned into that sacred space and asked God to be my victor and to expose those things that are not in accordance with His will. The Psalms have been particularly meaningful in this season. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and time and time again we find him calling out to God for justice and waiting for God to act.

Staying the course has taught me in an even greater measure that my confidence to lead and do what’s right is not dependent on what another person thinks of me – it’s part of stewarding the call. At the very end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul also sends a message directly to Archippus. Paul says to him, “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” (Co 4:17)

I wonder if Archippus was dealing with other leaders who were trying to cause him harm? We’re not told what is happening, but whatever it was, it warranted a reminder from Paul for Archippus to stay the course and complete the ministry that had been entrusted to him.

During this season it has been critical for me to remember that we fight not against flesh and blood – this is a crucial perspective if you want to continue to show up in life and lead with integrity. Behaviours may be evil (we can judge fruit), but every single person is God’s workmanship that God is seeking to draw unto himself and to transform from the inside out.

I absolutely love who we are in Christ and that Christ in us cannot be taken away or dimmed! How amazing is that?! So the next time you have to show up in the midst of the hard, ask God to continue to shine in and through you.

“You can’t turn out a light shining from the inside.”

-Steffany Gretzinger

If this post speaks to you today, take some time to remind yourself of the things that Jesus has given you – new mercy, His peace, His abiding presence in you, a hope, a future, etc., that cannot be taken away. Let your heart, mind, and spirit be strengthened by His truth about you and the things He’s given you, which no one can take away!

Reverend Carmen

Good Intentions Don’t Excuse Bad Behaviour or Consequences

It’s been a fruitful journey of learning these last few years. A journey in which I have had to lean into corrective measures and where I have intentionally sought out feedback on how I’m doing. And one thing I have tried to avoid is making these excuses: It wasn’t my intention to do that, or it’s not my fault that happened.

And truthfully, sometimes it wasn’t, but I had to be willing to listen to what my choices did and how they affected others. And then, based on that clarity, I had to intentionally make different decisions based on the lessons I was learning. I leaned in and learnt new behaviours.

And choosing to change your behaviours requires incredible vulnerability. It requires self-discipline to journey through the parts of yourself that we most often want to avoid. It means that there is a bridge that I must cross, and that bridge is leading to a new, transformed me. But the choice is mine. I’m responsible for taking that step of obedience in the right direction. Sometimes it’s scary, especially if behaviours are entrenched in us.

Good intentions don’t excuse bad behaviour – ever.

As I cross from one place of transformation to another, sometimes agonizingly so, I learn lessons. Lessons such as don’t react to everything. Don’t read everything. When I make a mistake, own it, don’t look for excuses for the bad behaviour. Ask for forgiveness when and where appropriate.

It’s so essential for any leader to be mindful that what they do and how they do it affects others – and it touches and transforms their own soul.  It’s vital in leadership to learn new skills and to mine the depths of our souls, seeking to learn who we are and the hurts that we need to leave at the cross, never to be picked up again.

Always remember that your identity is in Christ. Let His truth be the loudest.

Embrace it. Cling to it. Daily remind yourself of it. Meditate on it. Be still in it, allowing it to reach every corner of your soul.

I have loved this Hillsong song in recent months.

Another of my big lessons from these past five years has been this: the ones whom I journey with, the ones who are companions and friends on the journey,  must be chosen wisely. Why? For they will influence who I become as I seek to live receptive to feedback and transformation. I want not to be around toxic people and behaviours. I don’t surround myself with those who make excuses for bad behaviour. I pick the wise, the loving, the kind, the ones filled with grace AND truth because, at the end of each day, their presence in my life makes me a better human being.

We face our greatest leadership challenge every morning in the mirror. – Andy Stanley

Are you stuck in patterns that you know aren’t working? Are your good intentions really just excuses for bad behaviour? When you connect the dots in your life, are you where you are based on the choices you’ve made or not made? Are you an excuse maker? A blame shifter?

Here’s the good news friend, Christ came so that we could have new life! We don’t have to stay where we are. I don’t have to stay where I am, and neither do you. The choices (or excuses) we make today do not have to be the ones we make tomorrow!

Jesus said the following:

I have come as a Light into the world, so that whoever believes in Me [whoever cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] may not continue to live in darkness.” (John 12:46, AMP)

and

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:10, AMP)

New life is ours to live! “His grace runs deep.” I choose life. What do you want?

Reverend Carmen

 

Board Series: The Role of the Assistant to the Board

If you’ve been tracking with me for any length of time, you know that I’ve been on a passionate roll to bring some clarity in the area of board governance, especially since taking a board governance class (master’s level) this past year.

If you’re new to my blog and journey, here is a recap of my Governance Series to date:

  • What do governing boards do? Found here.
  • What is the role of the Chair? Found here.
  • Things to consider before saying “yes” to being on a board. Found here.
  • Warning signs of a toxic board. Found here.
  • The director’s voice. Found here.
  • Why does policy matter?  And other miscellaneous questions. Found here.

Boards, if they are responsible for a large number of things, will need assistance. Usually, administrative aid comes to the board via the hiring of a Board Assistant. On some boards this may be a volunteer position while on others it is a paid position. Whichever the case, here are some important things to know.

Board Assistants should sign and be bound by both a Confidentiality Agreement and a Code of Conduct. Why does this matter? It matters because they are privy to confidential information and they are associated with (seen as a part of) the particular board they are assisting. And for an assistant, it is important to note that a signed Confidentiality Agreement endures past your time of employment (whether you quit or your position was terminated).

So how does that play out? It means that while you are and were functioning as the Board Assistant, any information you had access to is still off limits to your friends or other members of the moral ownership. How you behave post your term as a Board Assistant, or on any committee for that matter, will be noticed by others and may have damaging effects for you if you are found to be of questionable character, careless with your words, and are misusing confidential information.

Of critical importance is that the assistant should understand that they are there to assist. They are there to provide much-needed support to the board as a whole. Their role is super, super important in helping a board maintain effective and efficient rhythms.

Some of the ways they assist the board are by ensuring communication is sent out in a timely fashion, regularly updating the Board Policy Manual and seeing to it that the directors continually have access to the most currently approved policies, attentiveness in recording board meeting minutes, preparing documents for the board and any necessary documents that need to be signed by the Chair, and reminding the board executive of important deadlines.  In some active boards, the Board Assistant also helps plan a Chair’s schedule. Here is an example job description.

Now, what are they not there to do? They are not there to push the agenda of one or more individuals either on the board or as part of the moral ownership. They are not there to direct the board or question their decisions. They may ask clarifying questions to accurately understand and record the conclusions the board has just arrived at or the information they want to be communicated, but they are not the Chair or Chief Governing Officer of the board.  Therefore, just like board members are to be carefully selected, so, too, should a Board Assistant.

Several years ago I had the privilege of working with a highly competent Board Assistant. She knew her role well. And not only did she know her role well, she also had a tremendous institutional memory as she and her family had been part of the founding families of the non-profit organization. In addition to that, she had four essential characteristics that made her stand out for me. She was humble, knowledgeable, teachable, and resilient. Given the complex nature of her role, she was able to work collaboratively with the board, was able to engage with the diverse personalities of the board, and was able to add value in tremendous ways because she had a good handle on policy governance and how she could assist the board in achieving its goals.

If you ever have any questions about board governance or have some insightful resources you’re willing to share, please let me know.

Wishing you a healthy board experience!

The Reverend Carmen Kampman

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Reflections on Psalm 24

What a glorious long weekend it was here in Saskatoon, SK. I got to be home on my farm, spend time with my hubby and the kids that were around, write my research proposal for my major research project required to successfully complete a MALM, and had loads and loads of time to read my Bible and reflect.

I’m currently working my way through the Bible chronologically, and I’ve recently started using this app. It’s.so.good. I highly recommend it.

Anyways, I was reflecting on Psalm 24 where we are reminded of the fact that the whole world belongs to the Lord – that he established the work and all who live in it. Then the psalmist goes on to ask the question, Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? The psalmist then lists for us some requirements:

  • those who have clean hands a pure heart
  • those who do not trust in idols or swear by false gods

Yikes, those are some important things we need to pay attention to! But what really caught my attending was the statement of not trusting idols. In my Bible, at least the one I am currently using, the footnote states this, ‘does not trust. This expression means to “nurse and appetite for” for something.”  1 Whoa, did you get that? It means to be active in doing things that cause our appetite for idols to grow!

This had me asking myself, are there any areas that I am currently nursing an appetite for and what would that look like?

In my journal I wrote these reflection questions:

  • What practices am I engaging in that might be nursing an appetite for idols in my life?
  • Are there items in my household that might need to go?
  • What do I invest my time (books, play, etc.) and are these areas promoting good fruit in my life?
  • Is there anything the Spirit is revealing to me that I need to deal with…now?

Prayer: Lord, I want your goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life, please reveal to me any areas in my life that I might be nursing an appetite for anything other than you, especially any idols. I love you Lord and I choose you.

Rev. Carmen Kampman

Board Series: The Director’s Voice, What Not to Do

This is to add to my other board series posts, and it’s an important one. As a board member you have a voice, and it is imperative that you know how to use it wisely and appropriately.

It is always important to remember that no one board member has more power than another; all members have an equal voice. It is true, however, that members may have different role responsibilities. An example of this would be the Chair (AKA Chief Governing Officer) or the Vice-Chair or the Secretary. The Chair has a role description, and because of the importance of this role (I talk about that here), it’s essential for the board to hold able and responsible the Chair. The Chair has, after all, committed themselves to delivering specific outcomes to the board. And effective Chair helps the board thrive, an ineffective Chair actually diminishes the board’s effectiveness – which, if left unchecked can derail a board entirely, sometimes for years.

Some of the ways you can empower yourself as a board member is by reading about the basic rules of governance and motions. Here is a helpful link for that. Many boards operate without using all the motions listed in the article and several often conduct business in a relaxed manner, but it’s still essential that you do your own homework. This enables you to use your voice.

I want to talk specifically about some behaviours that every board member should avoid as it erodes trust on the board and with the stakeholders:

  • As a board member, you are there to do work on behalf of the stakeholders, avoid making alliances with other board members that could take you off mission. Instead, develop good working relationships with the board and have high levels of transparency and accountability with your work. Your loyalty is to the job of the board, not one specific person on the board.
  • Operating outside the “One Voice” principle absolutely erodes trust on the board. As a board member you are required to use your voice in actively engaging in board deliberations and subsequent decsion making, and even if you disagree with a decision made (perhaps you voted “No”) with a majority vote, you are required to stand with what the board says. How is this lived out? It means that when you leave the boardroom, you don’t go telling people you were against the decision – so wrong! You can read more about the One Voice principle here.
  • Refrain from having conversations with other board members that could potentially cause you to feel awkward to voice your full thoughts at the board table. (We refer to these types of conversations as Parking Lot or Water Cooler conversations. You don’t want to allow someone to ever hold something over your head – so be integral in all your dealings. I personally refrain (in all areas of my life) from meeting with people who don’t demonstrate integrity in conversations and do not conduct themselves in a way that in honouring to other people. Gossip is an easy trap – entirely avoid it at all costs. You don’t need that in your life and it will, without a doubt, erode the trust of board members.
  • Don’t politic! It’s easy to get caught in this trap and you want to avoid this at all costs.
  • Don’t allow board members to behave poorly at the board table. Call out, and appeal to the other board members present if needed, any member(s) who acts passive-aggressively, who try to bring unsubstantiated information or concerns to the table, or who use board time to further their own personal agendas.
  • Don’t miss meetings, your voice has been chosen to be there. The board needs you, as do the stakeholders, to be actively engaged in board deliberations.
  • Look for ways that you can seek to understand your other team members. You’re on mission together, so actively look for ways to bring out the best in others.
  • Don’t be unaware of the guiding documents of the organization you are representing. Make sure you have an up to date Board Policy Manual (BPM) on your computer or readily available.  Sometimes on a board, personalities can clash, but it is important to refer back to the board’s governing policies when addressing something that’s of concern.

Board members owe it to the stakeholders to do whatever it takes to keep the board healthy! This is why board self-evaluation, evaluation of board members by other members (at the board table), and a checkup with a consultant are valuable processes.

One of the highest qualifications for a board member is that of humility because all board members must submit their preferences to the preferences of the group. 1

But good leadership always begins with leading ourselves well. If we are a board member, we must take that responsibility and journey seriously, ensuring we educate ourselves on what is required of us and how our voice should be used at the board meetings. You have a voice, use it constructively.

Reverend Carmen Kampman

“Be The Kind of Leader You Want to Follow”

I love this quote:

Be the kind of leader you want to follow.

What kind of leader do you want to be? That’s an important question, don’t you think?

This question, when faced with it this morning, reminded me of the following:

  • Good leaders are humble.
  • Good leaders use those around them to help diminish their blind spots. I’ve got them, I suspect most of us do.
  • Good leaders are those who invite Holy Spirit to search them, know them, and see if there be any wicked way in them. And then, when something is revealed, they act on it.
  • Good leaders inspire others to bring their best forward.
  • Good leaders are multipliers of people, not diminishers of people.
  • Good leaders lead with transparency, accountability, and courage. (It takes a lot of courage to stay and stand when things are not going well.)
  • Good leaders acknowledge that they don’t know what they don’t know. They reach out to others who can teach or resource them.
  • Good leaders are not threatened by the gifts and talents of others, they find a way to harness that.
  • Good leaders grow their strengths, understand what they bring to the leadership table, and create an inviting space for those with complimentary gifts.
  • Good leaders, if they lead or manage a team, are intentional to encourage, resource, bring clarity around expectations, and seek to know their individual team members in a way that is honouring.
  • Good leaders stand should-to-shoulder with their team. They don’t abuse their positional power or use it in passive-aggressive or manipulating ways.

 

The kind of leader I want to follow is humble, self-reflective, wise, God-honouring, people-honouring, a seeker of the best in people, accountable, transparent, inspires other to become more, brings clarity to the current rally cry, encourages, invites people to lead in their area of strengths, doesn’t abuse positional authority, seeks diversity in team for the betterment of where the team is serving, doesn’t gossip or leak important information, doesn’t use others in a self-serving way, is not afraid to stand for truth and what is right, and is not afraid to stand and lead forward in turbulent times.

What kind of leader do you want to follow?

Reverend Carmen Kampman

 

She Became Reverend Carmen Kampman

It’s been two weeks since my ordination to Christian Ministry in the PAOC; since I went from becoming a licensed minister to a Reverend. It’s still surreal, but I know things have shifted deep in my own soul and for others. For example, just this morning at church a gentleman came up to me and said, “Good morning Reverend, I’m Lawrence.” I replied, “Good morning, I’m Carmen.”

You see, I’ve not forgotten that I’m still Carmen. But the day of my ordination, I took on a new responsibility, that of Reverend. I have thought many times in the last two weeks about that ordination service. For me, it was a day in which I committed my life to the Body of Christ. To its service. And it wasn’t just a private declaration, it was very, very public. Public in my home church. Public with the blessing of the ordained ministers present that day. Public with the laying on of hands and a prayer of blessing and sanctification. I was publically set apart for Christian Ministry. It was a public affirmation of the call on my life. And it felt like coming home. For many, many years I had wondered where I fit. Why the pull in my heart to pursue this path. Now I know. Do I know all that is yet to come? No. But I know this: God called. And I followed.

It was a day surrounded by family and friends. One of those present was my long-time friend, Yvonne. She and I have quite a history. I mean how can you not when you’ve been friends since Grade 8! We’ve journeyed through high school graduations, weddings, child birth, the death of her first husband, Peter, operations, teenagers, her marriage to a fantastic guy named Doug, to name a few. I thank God for the richness of that length of friendship. And I have another friend, Karin. We’ve only been friends for a few years, but it feels like longer. She made the two delicious cakes for the small luncheon after the ordination service.  She and I often walk together, laugh at goofy things, and challenge one another in our daily walk with God. Then there was my brother, Vince,  and my  in laws, John and Teresa,  who came from BC, not to mention all of the local friends who came. And there was my tribe, my hubby and kids who came. And my hubby, Albert, he was a rock star that day.  He stood on stage (no small things for extreme extroverts!) with me as I answered the questions, publically committing my life to the service of Christ’s Church. 

The closest I can come to describing that day is like this:  It was the day I covenanted my life in service to God and His Church. As long as I am in my right mind, I will not forget my promise. And if there be a day that my mind no longer works as it should, my soul, because God is its shepherd and guardian, will never forget.

It’s a new day and a new season of ministry and service, Reverend Carmen Kampman has stepped into her calling.

Thank you to everyone that has been a part of my journey. Thank you for the cards and gifts, they were totally unexpected blessings. In future days I will read them again to savor their truths and the words of encouragement contained within. And on the days or months when it’s hard, I will pull them out and allow them to serve as reminders of April, 22, 2018.

It would be my prayer for you that you, too, would hear the call of God and follow.

Reverend Carmen Kampman

Me and my honey – Albert.
Proud father-in-law.
Preaching for the first time in my home church.

Ordained ministers laying hands on us.

Why Good Governance is Essential and Why Who You Choose as a Chair Matters

In previous posts, I have discussed the role of a chair, why policy matters, and other types of questions. Today I want to specifically tackle two things because they are burning in my heart and I need a constructive outlet.

Why Good Governance is Essential

Good governance is essential because it is the way in which we manage organizations at a high level, staying out of the day to day operations. Boards hire experts who can manage though on board-specified outcomes.

By all board members, a lack of understanding of governance, especially for a governance board, can lead to all kind all kinds of problems:

  • Dominant board member(s) who run off as mavericks doing non-board business and making decisions.
  • Directors’ energy being focussed on and drained by non-governance conversations.
  • The CEO can lack clarity on what’s expected of him or her when boards are not following a systematic approach in their style of governing. This, in turn, affects the entire organization. Clarity matters. Good governing helps us get that much-needed clarity and helps us to easily identify when we are off track and need a course correction.
  • A poor reputation among stakeholders. I love this quote: “Reputation — good governance delivers good products which in turn lead to good business performance. The reputation of a company can make or break it in the market.”1

Why Who You Choose as a Chair Matters

It’s often too late when boards realize they put the wrong person in the role of chair. Boards find themselves with a poor reputation, with unhappy stakeholders, repeatedly cleaning up messes from a maverick,  or feeling like they have spent one, two, or perhaps several years serving, only to look back wondering what was actually accomplished. Policies serve as roadmaps.

Before I had studied board governance, I actually didn’t understand the value of a good chair. I am better studied now and I can easily see when a chair is acting as an effective chair or when he or she is acting without the knowledge of governance. Please hear me: nice, smart, likable people can be in that position, but it doesn’t mean that it was a good choice and that a board should not make a course correction as quickly as possible if they feel the board chair is not representing the board well or helping the board govern well. Or better yet, make sure that whoever is chosen as chair undergoes ongoing training in the area of good governance. They are, after all, leading the board, and should be doing so with best practices.

Chairs model the way, I’ve said that before. And a huge part of the role of chair is to ensure the board is following its own policies – that’s why they are also often referred to as the Chief Governing Officer.  The chair, too, is expected to be accountable for and accountable to the board for doing just that. Directors, use your voice, ask good questions of your chair, and never be afraid to challenge policy violations!

I just cannot stress this enough, choose wisely who the chair is because if left unchecked, disaster can happen. If we want enduring governance, then board development in this area is of critical concern. Recommendation: As a collective board, either develop someone who is willing to be trained in this area or actively seeks someone who has experience in this area – the organization you are entrusted with governing needs the best from its board.

Most boards have a budget, make sure you allocate some of it to invest in growing the capacity of the board in its responsibility to govern.

Questions about board governance, please post them in the comment section. Got any good articles about good board governance, please link them in the comments section.

Have an amazing day!

Reverend Carmen Kampman

 

 

Board Series: Board Size, Why Policy?, and Other Questions

Good morning (or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are)!

In the wake of several conversations that, in one way or another, had to do with board governance, I’m writing this blog post to address some of the great questions I have recently heard people asking.

What is a good size for a board? Well, that depends on the type of organization and what you are together trying to accomplish. For me, in the contexts I serve, 7-9 is an ideal number. Governance Today writes a great article on this, you can read that here. The important thing for any board is that they be able to accomplish that which they’ve been tasked to do.

Why policy matters? Policy – and reviewing it and revising it as needed – matters because policy allows a board to do its work. Policies are guiding documents that contain how that work is to be accomplished. Policy is owned by the board, is the work of the board, and empowers the board to speak with one voice. Another way of looking at this is it provides the board and CEO with empowering boundaries.

What if I want to manage versus govern? (Such a great question that I heard last night at a Town Hall meeting.) If you want to manage, then seek out a managing board or apply for a management position within an organization that you would like to manage and feel you have something of value to contribute. It is highly disruptive and an energy drain for all board members when one (or more) members want to be in the management domain versus the governing domain. I have seen this totally derail a board, sometimes for years.

Is governing hard? That’s an interesting question. Personally, I found governance hard when I was uneducated about what it was and why it mattered. Board work is good and necessary work, and, like any ministry worth stewarding well, requires hard work – from everyone. And it requires a commitment from all board members to grow and lean in together in order that they can become the most effective stewards they can be.

This is why taking seriously board development opportunities matters.

Not only that, having an effective chair really matters! To read more about the role of a chair, see my post here.

If you’re considering board service, see some suggestions on my blog post here.

Have an amazing day!

Reverend Carmen Kampman

p.s. In case you didn’t know, my ordination took place April 22, 2018.

 

 

Board Series: What is Board Governance?

I’ve titled this post What is Board Governance? because I have often heard people ask this very question or a variation of this question.

Board Governance is the job required to be done by the Board of Directors on a board. But before we dive into this a little further, it’s important to keep in mind the following:

  • A board collectively exists to steward the wishes of the ownership (stakeholders) of an organization. If you are a board member, it is imperative that you understand for whom and for what benefit your role exists.

Board governance then, in a most simplified form, is seeking to know the wishes of the ownership (stakeholders), translating that into desired outcomes (Ends), setting empowering boundaries for those hired (CEO) to achieve those Ends, and monitoring to ensure the Ends are being produced. Here is a great little video that teaches this.

How the board builds credibility with its’ owners is by, among other things, establishing how it is going to behave and make decisions – this is usually written as policy. And, by actively understanding and living within their own empowering boundaries/policies, boards are enabled to speak with one voice.

When one or more board members fail to operate within policy, it comprises the integrity of the entire board and can also have detrimental effects on an entire organization. (I could share some stories here that would make you cringe, but that is not the purpose of my post.)

Hope that helps you to understand a little better what Board Governance is, it’s the responsibility of the Board of Directors.

Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Series: The Role of the Chair

 

I am reposting this post because I thought it had been lost forever when I transferred my blog platform, but I was able to find it again in the backups I had done. In keeping with my board series theme from last week, today I want to write about the role of the chair. I am particularly interested in this because of my experience that began a few years back while serving on my first board.

At the beginning of my 2nd year of a 3-year term, I was voted to be the Vice-Chair. I was not, however, to remain in that position for very long as our then elected Chair resigned and it was then that I found myself in the position of Chair. The decision to vote for Chair was something I let the board decide as I was quite content to stay as Vice-Chair because I knew there was a lot to learn.  I had no clue, yet felt like God was calling me to this.  So I did what I always do when I find myself out of my element, I read books, I prayed, I watched video tutorials, and I then invited the board to go on a journey with me as I learned to chair effectively. They were a gracious bunch.
I fumbled from time to time but overall I did an excellent job. I am proud of those years as I truly believe I served with excellence and understanding – as much understanding as one can have when they are learning as they go.
Over the years I have reflected on that time and wished there was more material that spoke to the role of the chair. Last week my wish came true when on my bosses bookshelf I saw this book: The Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry by David L. McKenna.
That book highlighted for me so many of the things I instinctively thought a chair’s role ought to be and then some. You see, for me, I saw my chair role as that of a servant-shepherd, guiding the board to places we needed to be and towards decisions we needed to make. Mackenna would describe the call of a board chair this way:

The board chair of the Christ-centred ministry must be called of God to the position, exemplify Christ in qualifications, exercise Spirit-guided discernment in functions, and be accountable to God for performance. 1

But to break it down a bit further, here are some expectations of a board chair (this will not be an exhaustive list):

  • They are to manage the board, ensuring that the board stays true to its mission, handles itself with integrity, stays within the empowering boundaries it has set for itself and makes policy changes when appropriate and necessary.
  • They must cultivate, work collaboratively with, and nurture a good working relationship with the CEO, at times also serving as a coach to the CEO. Both are on the same team. A board goes toxic really fast if relationships are not appropriately attended to.
  • They must manage and bring to the forefront the priorities of the board. Priorities such as policy-making and monitoring as well as strategic planning.
  • They need to plan wisely for board succession. This is something I would do very differently if ever in a board chair position again as I have seen the negative effects of having the wrong person in a chair position.

Those are but just a few of a chair’s responsibility, but I hope you’ll find them helpful as you consider the possibility of being a board member. And remember, every competent chair will bring their own unique gift set to the role, but there are things, such as I’ve listed above, that should never be compromised. The chair is a leader among leaders, and though they have no authority other than what’s been entrusted to him or her by the board, the chair role is a vital position and a board chair needs to be carefully selected.
Serve well in whatever context you’ve been called to,
Carmen

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