Bad Advice from Church Board Members


I’ve been in a lot of church board meetings. A LOT. For the first 15 years of my professional career, I was on the staff side of the table. Since I valued my job and wanted to keep it, most of the time, I often just sat there quietly as people disguised bad advice in spiritual terms. Well, mostly quietly anyway. For those of you who know me, you understand that I don’t do “quiet” very well.
There are a lot of great business men and women of faith in church boards that have inspired and mentored me throughout my career. And there are some who should never have been there in the first place. I’ve heard a lot of bad advice and theology dispensed by volunteer leaders cloaked in the guise of concern and spirituality. Here’s a short list of stuff I’ve heard through the years that have stuck with me and my translation of what they really said:

  • “Surely we can’t expect our young couples to give 10% of their income. They don’t make that much money.” Translation: “How dare you expect me to give 10% of my income to this church. Do you have any idea of how much money that is?”
  • “Based on historical giving data and market conditions, I believe that a zero increase in the budget is all we need to forecast.” Translation: “I have no faith in our people, the vision for the future and even less in God.”
  • “We can’t just keep increasing the Pastor’s salary. It’s more than the average church member” Translation: “He’s about to make more money than me and I’m not happy about it.”
  • “This is Jesus’ church and you don’t own it.” Translation: “This is my church and you don’t own it.
  • “The Holy Spirit spoke to me last night and. . . ” Translation: “My wife spoke to me last night and. . . “
I’d love to hear some of your stories on bad church board advice, whether or not they were disguised or spiritualized.
  • Funny thing on the banker one in particular: in his bank, 0% growth would NEVER be allowed, yet it's ok for the church. Why the difference?

  • nothing negative here!

  • "The Business of Church". There's your book title, Maurilio. You heard it here first.

  • I dread church board meetings. I have been in too many that were more like inquisitions than meetings. I don't know of any other organization where the board is allowed to treat the CEO (Pastor) and his family like their property. Now that I'm an older and wiser pastor's wife, I make it very clear from the start that my children and I are NOT church property. I think I'll write a book about that one. . .I've even seen men nearly hit my husband in board meetings. And if you knew my darling husband, he is one of the most humble, meek, godly men you'll ever meet. The darkness just plain doesn't like the light. He glows. They hate that.Just because you're on a board doesn't give you the right to be a bully. There's another chapter in my book.GREAT post!

  • I didn’t know we wen to the same church and served on the same boards!
    Seriously, what’s that saying about the Christian army being the only one that shoots their own wounded? I think some of the worst scars I’ve had in ministry have been from those “well-meaning” souls who started their sentences with, “bless your heart…”

  • Okay…the main thing I am hearing in my arrival in this new church is……"Just Wait, the right time will come for spiritual leaders,prayer and unity."Translation: We are all unqualified, but too proud to admit it. So leave us alone while we screw it up!Now I have the hard task of teaching, guiding and removing! Hate it. But leadership happens that way. Being young makes it especially hard. But, really a Board which is not aligned under God's Word is never easy to correct!

  • Some of you asked me if this post is in reaction of the board meeting I attended Tuesday night. Yes, but for a difference reason than you might imagine. That was a great board meeting with visionary leaders who trust God to do what we know we are not able on our own.

    That’s such a contrast to what I’ve seen over the years.

  • Anonymous

    The most common one and oft repeated one in my experience is this:

    “The pastor (or staff member) doesn’t really listens to me”  Translation: “The pastor doesn’t do what I tell him to do.”

  • another great post!  how about this one…  I would love to let you lead, but don’t think one person should have to shoulder all that responsibility.  translation: 
    I dont want to give up control”

    • Thank you Chris. Another translation to that would be “you already have too much power.”

  • Haha! That was awesome. It bugs me when people try to disguise anything with spirituality. This post has Stuff Christians Like all over it.

  • The biggest one I heard when I sat on the board of a church was:

    “That staff pastor is rebellious and doesn’t understand true spiritual authority.”
    Translation: “That staff pastor doesn’t let me control him like I want to.”

    There are so many others, but I will be good. 

  • Billy Williams

    Years ago I was at a congregational business meeting and a man stood and said ” we need to make sure the leaders are older, wiser and more stable” Translation “I don’t want these crazy kids running the place, they will turn up the music!” 

    • And now you are the “older, wise and somewhat more stable” guy who is a church leader. Scary, isn’t it.

  • “There’s widespread dissatisfaction within the choir.”

    Translation: “I don’t like the choir director.”

  • Please say you have a followup to this about the things PASTORS say. 😉

    • I would write it if I didn’t think my Pastor clients would read it and get mad at me. 🙂

  • Beleighve

    “We don’t care about numbers.”
    Translation: “We’d really rather not grow because it’s easier and more comfortable.”

  • How about, “I’ve heard complaints from a number of people about your sermon last week.”

    Translation: “I didn’t like it.”

  • Dkontoudis

    “I don’t know what YOU say, i know what the Bible says” Translation “I am the official EXPLANATOR of the Bible”. 

    Another one that proved to be exactly right is: “I heard several people say/complain/ask/question….” FACT “I heard just one person close to me say/complain/ask/question….”

    • Often time there is not another person. He or she is just hiding behind the fictitious “member” so they don’t have to say the truth.

  • TZFan

    You can do this with pastors, too…

    “Why don’t you want me to live as well as you do?” Translation: “There are some wealthy people in this church, and I’m not one of them.”

    “Well, the original Hebrew more closely means…” Translation: “This verse is antithetical to my point.”

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