Dr. David Drury, a friend from whom I’ve learned much, wrote a very helpful article a few weeks ago about the most important meeting of the year. For churches, nonprofit boards, or other organizations that have elected leadership, there is a nominating committee meeting somewhere out there. Dr. Drury shared several reasons why this meeting is so vital. If you haven’t yet read his article, I encourage you to check this out: http://www.daviddrury.com/2015/04/09/the-most-important-meeting-of-your-year/
David makes the case that a well-designed nominating committee process is one of the best ways to set the future agenda, increase diversity in leadership, and protect the core values of the organization.
I enthusiastically agree with his conclusions. His article also caused me to reflect on my experiences with nominating committees. This issue of protecting the core values was one of the criteria that I have prioritized in the past. As I prepare to move into a new leadership role this summer, I will be working even harder to ensure that this is true.
Of special interest, as one returning to the role of District Superintendent, “What criteria do I look for when we are nominating members of a District Board of Administration?”
Before I share my top 3 list, let me add the caveat that I am assuming that each of these potential nominees are Spirit-filled members of The Wesleyan Church in full agreement with our doctrinal statements and lifestyle commitments (and I do know that might make my list of candidates shorter than I wish that it was). So, with that in mind, here’s my top three:
1) Do they model what we say is important as a district?
I won’t neglect the importance of a wide-range of voices, from different age groups, church sizes/styles, and making sure that both women and minorities are well-represented. But I will not sacrifice the mission for the sake of a photo-op or achieving some quota. The sad reality is that most of our boards are too white, too male and too old. And, yes, I fall into all three of those boxes.
But more important than diversity is unity of purpose. If the district as a whole is going to be committed to the Great Commission and making disciples, then every nominee needs to model that in their respective context. If a prospective nominee would represent a church that is not making disciples, at least as quantified by 1) professions of faith, 2) believer baptisms, 3) members added by profession of faith, and 4) a resulting increase in the worshipping community, it is not fair to that individual, or the district, to nominate them to a position where they will be asked to set policies and provide accountability to the other churches in the region.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Drury notes, too often nominating committees present a slate of candidates that look very much like those of the previous decade without regard to whether the nominees best represent the vision and values of the team.
2) Do they fully support the team they’re calling others to support?
My second expectation is that these nominees represent congregations that are fully cooperating in the unified ministry of the district. I am not looking for Lone Rangers. Districts were created to serve a region of local churches who organized themselves in this structure to do some things better together than they could do alone.
Local churches send the delegates that elect district officers and set district policies. Local church delegates establish the portion of financial support (District Stewardship Fund) that each church will contribute.
Anyone nominated to a position that decides how the combined ministry funds of the district should be spent, has the right to come representing a church that fully participates. In other words, it is unfair to place any individual in the awkward position of having to explain why other churches should fully participate in USF when the church they represent doesn’t.
That seems like a very basic expectation but I’ve had conversations in the past with DBA members who never thought about those implications and had never been questioned about it. If I was somehow nominated to a district office but my church had not paid 100% USF in the previous year, I would respectfully decline.
I found the same situation to be true when I interacted with members of the Board of Trustees at a Christian college. They were elected and empowered to approve plans to spend the donations of other faithful contributors, but they themselves had given nothing in recent years.
I encountered the same challenge in local churches where members of the elders, deacons, or board of directors were not giving at the minimum expectation level of tithing. (Wesleyan Discipline 460-475).
We have little right to expect God to financially bless an organization or ministry that is led by people are not surrendered to this minimum standard of investment. Where your treasure is, your heart will also be. And if your treasure is not here in this ministry, where is your heart?
The same goes for church planting. If we say church planting is one of our highest priorities as a district, do our nominees come from churches that have expressed that commitment in practical ways like praying, sending, and giving?
What about world missions? Caring for the poor and marginalized? If these are priorities in our district, to what degree does our list of nominees represent churches that are uniting as a team to make a difference in our region?
3) Do these nominees represent the widest possible spectrum of voices from our team?
Once these first two criteria are satisfied, then I love to see a nominating committee do the important work of building a slate to make sure all voices are heard at the table.
The Wesleyan Church, of which I am gladly a member, holds out the hope of full participation for women in ministry. Yet, only one woman serves as a District Superintendent (Rev. Anita Eastlack serves as Co-DS with Dr. Karl Eastlack in Penn-Jersey District) and only one of our largest 100 churches is pastored by a woman (Rev. Heather Semple at Red Cedar Community Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin). If we’re serious about equal opportunities, surely the nominating committee is the gateway to ensuring that promise.
If it were not for the rapid increase in Hispanic congregations, The Wesleyan Church in North America would be showing a net loss in the number of local churches. Yet, how many pastors or lay leaders of Hispanic congregations serve on the District Board of Administration?
Leaders from ethnic and multi-ethnic congregations have a valued voice that must be heard if we are going to be effective in reaching our communities for Christ. The nominating committee must be proactive in opening that door to more diverse representation.
Then there are age considerations. Not just the age of the nominees, although I would observe that the average age of most district boards is two, or even three, decades older than the average age in our congregations. I am also thinking about the age of the church itself. Often, the long-established congregations are disproportionately represented in district boards and committees.
If a district team is going to be serious about launching many new congregations, then there need to be leaders at the table from those new congregations. The challenges they face (i.e. dealing with temporary facilities and attenders who have little or no sense of denominational connection), are realities that need to be in view as the district leadership team makes decisions about the future.
That’s my short list of expectations for nominees to the DBA. What makes your list?