A Key to Success
By Mark D. Burkhardt, Director for Outdoor Ministries, ELCA
How do you cultivate and recruit new board members for your outdoor ministry organization? Healthy organizations make board member recruitment a priority and work hard at developing new leadership. Your organization’s ability to thrive and grow could very well depend on the composition of your board. Let me suggest three key factors to building a successful, forward-thinking board.
First, and most importantly, your board needs a soul. That means that persons who serve as board members should have a passion for ministry. They should be well grounded in spiritual practices like prayer and service and should be active, worshiping members of a congregation. Board members who are grounded in their Christian faith will have a much easier time keeping board conversations focused on mission and ministry. They are also more likely to focus on the broader strategic issues that impact a wide spectrum of people. Board members should also be fully committed to your mission and willing to work cooperatively with others.
Second, your board needs balance. Several times over the past few years I have had the unpleasant task of meeting with outdoor ministry boards in times of crisis. One of the most fascinating things that I have discovered is that in every case, the board lacked a balance of skills and experience. In other words, they lacked the ability to do the critical thinking and decision-making required to lead their organization to a better place. Boards that are built around people with similar personality types and who share common interests and occupations can often develop significant blind spots. Healthy boards look for a good mix of people and seek a balance in areas like gender, occupation, age, personality, race, and life experience. Board members bring their life experience and personal strengths to board discussions and help each other to look at difficult issues from the perspective of the other. Healthy boards know how to balance effective ministry and operational competence.
Third, your board needs a future. Boards need to create a healthy balance between experience and fresh energy and ideas. While it’s easy to say that every board needs to have a regular planned rotation of board members, it’s a lot harder to determine how those new board members will be found. That’s why the real key to board member recruitment is board member development. Most boards have committees and task forces who focus on specific areas of work. These are excellent places to develop new board members. That’s also why it’s so important to include non-board members on these work groups and give them real opportunities to lead. Committees and task forces then become a feeder system for committed new board members.
Your organization cannot afford to take a passive approach to board membership. Healthy boards give life and vitality, focus and direction to ministry. Healthy boards set and meet goals, pay their bills, and plan for the future. Does your board have a soul? Does your board have balance? What are you doing to ensure a healthy future of your board and your outdoor ministry organization?