The Importance of an Independent Board

With the busy, fast-paced lives we lead, it can be challenging to get the volunteers needed for our Church Board positions. Putting staff members on the Board of Trustees can be tempting. But, before you overload your Board with too many staff members, consider the importance of having an independent Board.

Your church’s Board of Trustees is a governing body with the purpose to represent the interest of the members of the church which is typically voted on by the members of the congregation. They help make crucial policy and financial decisions for your church. They also have the important role of helping craft church policy such as a giving policy, reimbursement policy, etc. Another important job for the Board is managing conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest can arise when a church policy or financial decision could potentially benefit someone connected to the church. Obviously staff members of the church have a conflict of interest because they receive their pay and livelihood from the church. This could potentially influence some of the decisions they make such as annual pay raises for church staff, distribution of annual staff love offerings, or other perks.

Another conflict that could apply to any member of the Board of Trustees can arise when hiring a vendor to complete a job for the church. If a board member or a friend or family of the Board member owns a plumbing company, for example, and the church needs plumbing done then the board needs to proceed with caution. Automatically hiring the plumbing company that has a connection to a board member should never be the default. This does not mean that friends or family of the Board can never be hired for a church job but there should be certain guidelines in place such as:

  1. Obtaining at least three quotes from three different vendors for jobs that will cost over a certain dollar amount (such as $500).
  2. The Board voting on the company they would like to hire for the job based on quotes from vendors and research on each company.
  3. The Board member who has a connection to one of the vendors removing themselves from a vote on that particular decision since their vote would not be impartial.
  4. Having a first choice vendor for emergencies where obtaining quotes will take too much time. In the plumbing scenario, for example, there might be a leak that needs to be fixed immediately. Obtaining three quotes and voting on them could become cumbersome. Having a go-to company picked out and voted on already will ensure emergencies can be taken care of in a timely manner.

A church board represents all members of the congregation and their interests. The interests of the board members should never come above the interests and well being of the church congregation as a whole. Having written policies in place to manage possible conflicts of interest is extremely important. That way no one has their feelings hurt if one of the elder’s sons isn’t chosen as the church landscaper. Unity within the Body of Christ is crucial to the health and longevity of your church. Policies to manage conflict help churches avoid drama and stay united. If you do not have a written Conflict of Interest Policy we encourage your church board to draft and implement one as soon as possible.