- Spend time with them.
Touch base with them between meetings. Find out more about them, their families, their interests. You will know more about their strengths and places they need to grow. You can connect electronically, but I strongly suggest you simply pick up the phone. Even if they don’t call you back, they will know you were thinking about them. An idea to consider: one pastor told the members of the board he would read a book they suggested and meet with them to discuss it. It worked so well to foster a deeper connection that he did it again another year.
If you have to choose, prioritize developing leaders over visiting shut-ins, even in a small church. Don’t feel guilty and don’t pay attention to the people who say you don’t visit enough if that’s part of the culture of your church. You need relationships with your leaders in order to do your job. You can’t delegate this.
- Use meetings to help them grow.
Teach them. Have a brief learning time at each board meeting. You’ll need to enroll the president or chair to get this on the agenda, and you may face some resistance. Here’s my experience: If you have a clear agenda and a set closing time for the meeting, you can do a few minutes of teaching and still end on time. Discussion expands to fill the time available. Some boards have studied my book Leaders Who Last. I used Ron Richardson’s Creating a Healthier Church.
Pray with and for them. Rev. Cindy Maybeck insisted that her board have a prayer time at every meeting and that they pray aloud. This was her primary teaching. They resisted strongly, and it took years, but at the end they all felt like that was one of her biggest contributions to their own leadership and the life of the church. Also let your leaders know you are praying for them, and then do it. It doesn’t have to take a long time.
- Allow them to lead.
Be clear about what their role is and what your role is. Allow them to play their role. This will vary depending on your structure. For example, in an Episcopal church, the rector has more authority than in a congregational church like UCC or Baptist. If a decision is on the table that is not yours to make, put your case forward. Then say, “I recognize this is your decision.” After the decision, even if you strongly disagree, communicate that you respect them and the choice they made. Then act accordingly
Three questions to consider:
Who are the current leaders I want a closer relationship with?
What do I want to teach my leaders or learn alongside them?
Can I stick to my role, and let them play theirs?