DIFFICULT BOARD MEMBERS & An Exercise to Train Leaders How to Tactfully Respond

by Bob Whitesel, D., Min., Ph.D., 9/25/15.

This leadership exercise improves skills for leading and directing boards.  Boards are polity structures that control information, progress and funding. Thus, they are an important element that must be managed and developed carefully and diplomatically.

To complete this leadership exercise, tell in two paragraphs how you would handle the following scenario.  Use citations (at least 2) to explain the rationale for your plan.  Here is the fictional case study:

Frank has been on the church’s governing board as a representative of the Trustees for almost two decades.  Everyone loves his care and concern for the church’s facilities.  However, the treasurer has informally informed the board that he has received an offer from a national pharmacy chain to purchase the parsonage.  Everyone knows the parsonage is in need of repair, and thus the treasurer has recommended to the board that the church sell the parsonage, and buy a new parsonage for the pastor.

Frank is vehemently set against this course of action.  He was involved in purchasing the land for the parsonage in the early 1960s and with a team of friends, he oversaw the building of the parsonage by a local builder.  Frank and his friends had also volunteered many extra hours doing most of the finish work.  From the roof, to the basement, they worked to create a nice parsonage on a limited budget.  In fact, the trustees of another church nearby had asked Frank and his friends for their advice when they built their own parsonage.  Some people even commented that the parsonage looked too ostentatious because of the many nice details Frank and other volunteers had created.  Because the parsonage sat on the corner of a busy intersection, the parsonage was even more well known than the church facility.  But, over the years Frank’s friends left to go to that place we all hope to see one day: Florida.  And as they departed few wage-earning boomers had the time to help Frank keep the parsonage fixed up  Slowly but steadily the parsonage descended into disrepair.

Corrie had been the pastor for seven years, and she struggled to lead the church and raise her two daughters in the parsonage’s deteriorating confines.  Everyone knew Corrie was dissatisfied, but she tried not to show it.  Now finally, was a chance to get rid of the parsonage and purchase a new one in a more upscale suburb seven miles away.

The treasurer put the sale of the parsonage on the agenda of tonight’s board meeting, and Corrie just saw it.  She knew she had no time to talk to Frank or the treasure before the meeting.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and prayed.  Afterwards she thought back to her course at Wesley Seminary and slowly small snippets of insights came back to her.  She felt a sense of purpose and diplomacy.  She entered the meeting, and here is what happened … (now, you finish the story).

So, tell us what Corrie did as a student of the books and lessons you have been reading to address the problem of Frank and the treasurer. What was the outcome, and how did she do it?  As you write your board meeting scenario (just a paragraph of two) be sure to tell who are the strategic, tactical and operational leaders.  And, resist the temptation to be humorous and impractical.  Share your best ideas, for you may be facing a similar situation in the near future.