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5 balls on strings, 4 sad and stationary, 1 happy and ready to swing down to hit the other 4
Top Ten People Who Should NOT Be On Your Board
Top Ten People Who Should NOT Be On Your Board

Caution! Humor Ahead.....

  1. Joe Blow-Hard. He’s the dude who always has an opinion about everything. Rationale: Let him see that running a church is not as easy as he thinks. Reality: He is all talk and no action. Give the nominating committee his name only if you want the Board meetings to go on past midnight.
  2. Sue Sweet. The dear soul who has been responsible for chancel flowers for the last 30 years. Rationale: Let’s put her on the Board to reward her for a job well done. Reality: If you want to reward her, get her a gift certificate. She has been doing what she loves for years–leave her alone! She will likely be ineffectual on the Board of Trustees.
  3. Enya Absentia. Very active way back when her kids were young, but Enya and her husband have only been sporadically involved for the last decade. Rationale: Let’s get Enya and her husband involved again, by giving her a seat on the Board. Reality: Enya has been out of the loop for years. A lot has happened in that time. Better to find someone else who is passionate about the congregation and up to speed around recent changes.
  4. Isaiah Newby. Very new to the church, and eager to be involved in everything. Rationale: Let’s get some new blood on the Board! Reality: Get Isaiah involved in education or fellowship groups, or justice work, if you want to help him build commitment rather than burn him out. Nobody joins a church because they want to serve on the Board. Let him get a few of his needs met before you show him how the sausage is really made.
  5. Ima Needy. Has had a lot go wrong in her life, and has a hard time moving on. Rationale: We want to affirm Ima, and give her a reason to live. Reality: The Board is not a support group.
  6. Tara Teen. Member of the youth group. Rationale: We need to hear from our young people. Reality: While hearing from our young people is an excellent idea, unless she is a governance geek, Tara will like as not find the workings of the Board a giant bore. There are other, better ways to involve children and youth in the life of the congregation. 
  7. Byron Busy. Corporate Big Shot, who travels constantly for his business. Rationale: He will bring his expertise from the business world to the Board. Reality: He’ll miss over half the meetings. Also, leading employees doesn't always translate into leading volunteers.
  8. Anne Agenda. Anne is *so* passionate–we could use that kind of energy on the Board! Rationale: She does have a lot of passion. Reality: She is passionate about her one single issue. If you want to hear all about homeless kitties, or her vegan lifestyle at Board Meetings (in addition to the five minutes she takes up every Sunday morning during Joys and Concerns), then go ahead and put her on the Board.
  9. Buck Saplenty. Buck has money to burn, but his annual pledge is remarkably low. Rationale: Once he understands why we need the money, his pledge will go up. Reality: His cheapskate ways and scarcity thinking will poison the rest of the Board.
  10. Oley Hipster. Nobody told him that the 60’s are over. He’s still questioning authority and fighting the establishment. Rationale: Oley has been around for a long time, and was a mover and shaker back in the day. Reality: Oley was good at tearing things down, not building them up. He is a rebel without a cause, not a good trustee. Have him plan the hootenanny.

World’s Worst Reasons for nominating someone to serve on the Board of your congregation: To affirm them; to show how much we care; because they make a lot of noise; because we need new blood, old blood or young blood; because we have a hidden agenda (we want their money, property or pool for a party); because they’ve been around forever; because they are brand new; because we can’t get anyone else to serve.

World’s Best Reasons for nominating someone to serve on the Board: they have shown support for the institution in the past; they are generous with their time and money; they have enough time in their lives to attend the meetings and do the work; they have a good sense of humor; they embody the values of the congregation in their personal lives; their knees do not tend to jerk much…


Bonus Wisdom

Never nominate an active alcoholic or addict to serve as Treasurer or Canvass Chair.

If your Board meetings last past 9:30pm, your Board is doing too much micromanaging. Take a hard look at the agenda, a week prior. Put the most important items at the top of the agenda. Cull out the items that are not Board business.

If your Board is micromanaging: It probably means that they don’t want to deal with the real issue(s). Your job is to name that elephant in the middle of the table. What is the one thing they don’t want to address?

About the Authors

  • The Rev. Suzanne Meyer is minister of the First Unitarian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

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For more information contact conglife@uua.org.