What to do When You Need to Remove a Board Member
I recently received several emails from a young pastor who expressed concern regarding a board member.
His board members were individuals who just 2 years earlier had taken a step of faith with him to plant the church. These were individuals he looked up to and respected. These were the individuals who would support him and have his back through thick and thin, or so he thought.
On the surface everything about the church seemed fine; they were making a difference in the local community, attendance was steadily growing, as well as the church’s finances. But behind the scenes, this pastor was experiencing dissension amongst one of his board members.
He shared with me his grievances about how this particular board member was causing division amongst the board and questioning his role and leadership as pastor.
He acknowledged how our sinful nature can get in the way of carrying out God’s work, and how at times personalities will clash. He was confident in his calling to be the pastor and spiritual leader of his church, but he wasn’t sure what to do about this board member.
Should he ask him to step down? What rights does he have as pastor to remove a board member? What should he do if he won’t step down?
These were the types of questions this pastor was asking in his email, and I want to take some time to share with you what I shared with him.
When we don’t see eye-to-eye
In all relationships, there comes a time when we don’t see eye-to-eye. This is so with those we are closest to, such as our spouse, children, and extended family, and perhaps even more so with those who aren’t family such as, friends, co-workers, church members, and board members.
But how we handle grievances and disagreements with one another can make all the difference in the outcome.
Unfortunately, there are times when it is necessary for some relationships to come to an end. In any instance, I believe that the termination of any relationship should be a last resort, but even then, it matters how you respond and carry yourself.
As a pastor, there are times when you will have to make tough decisions. And sometimes these tough decisions involve those that you are closest to in the church.
Removing a board member is much more difficult than adding one. Aside from the board member voluntarily resigning by submitting a resignation letter, asking someone to resign or voting them off is a balancing act between the legal ramifications and the ripples that it can send through your church. This is one of the reasons why we cover this very topic at all of our conferences.
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So, if it ever came down to it, how should you remove a board member who is no longer fully supporting you and the ministry?
Two ways to remove a board member
Through my experience as a pastor, I have found that there are two ways to remove a board member involuntarily.
They are as follows:
This is the method that I always contend for first. Below are some steps to take.
i. Have a long and thorough conversation over coffee.
Share your heart and try to find out what is at the root of his behavior. In the meantime, speak value to him by mentioning their strengths and the things you appreciate about him.
This conversation is not confrontational, but rather it is designed to encourage him and for you to try to understand the reason for their behavior by asking questions about their behavior and how you can better serve to help him through it.
ii. Speak individually to each board member under strict confidence.
By now, each board member has an opinion about the disgruntled board member. This is where you must be careful to say as little as possible.
You simply ask them, "How is your relationship with __________?"
Let them talk and then say, "I'm considering asking for his/her resignation," followed by the question, "What do you think about him/her no longer being on the board?"
Chances are that they will confirm what you’ve been thinking.
iii. If after the first conversation the pattern re-emerges, then a second conversation is needed.
The second conversation comes only after you are convinced that removal is the best and only option. This one confronts his behavior in the gentlest way you know, but also asks that he resign.
I had success by asking in the following manner:
"For me our relationship as friends and brothers in the Lord is more important than the value you add to our board of directors. While I appreciate it, it cannot come at the loss of a good friendship. I would like for you to resign and focus on resolving any issues you have. I have spoken with the rest of the board and they, too, are in agreement with the request I am making of you."
The termination of any relationship should be a last resort, but even then, it matters how you respond and carry yourself.
At this point move the conversation to a letter of resignation so that instead of getting voted off the board, he resigns.
If he sends a resignation letter, then accept it, and submit it to the board at the next official board meeting. Attach a copy to the minutes and save it in the church's corporate records kit.
If the board member refuses your counsel, follow the steps of the next method.
2. By vote of the board
A vote by the board should only be done as a matter of last resort.
In almost every case where a church takes this action to remove a board member against his wishes, the repercussions are generally negative. However, if the church follows this course after first attempting diplomatic measures, the results are less impacting on the congregational life of the church while keeping the legal foundation unmoved.
Below are the proper steps to take.
i. Call a special meeting of the board.
Make sure you follow the procedure prescribed in your bylaws. After having assisted thousands of churches over the years, our consultants find that most church bylaws do not have any provisions for special board meetings.
ii. Create an agenda.
The special board meeting should be for the sole purpose of taking official action to remove the board member. We teach pastors and leaders how to create agendas at all of our conferences.
iii. Send proper notice.
State law requires that every board member receive proper notice. This is a notice that has to be sent to all board members informing them of the board meeting. It has to be sent "x" number of days in advance, according to the prescribed requirements of your state. Proper notice should be sent directly to each board member with a copy of the agenda so that they know the reason for the board meeting.
iv. The actual board meeting.
On the day of the board meeting make sure that the secretary of the board takes attendance. It is important to document it.
Once it is documented that a quorum is present, the pastor/president or chairman should call the meeting to order and discuss the only item on the agenda. After discussion, someone should make a motion to remove _________ from the board. Someone should second it and a full vote of the board should be taken.
At this time those in favor of the motion should vote, followed by those opposed. If those in favor are in the majority as prescribed in the bylaws, then it becomes a legally binding act of the board. The state and the courts will sustain the board's actions.
Get the proper training
While neither option is desirable, the diplomatic approach is always better than the voting approach.
You will not always be able to avoid the hard circumstances of ministry, but you can be ready for them.
When it comes to you and your board members, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you all to be on the same page. There are many ways you can do that, but one such way is for you and your board to attend our Ultimate Church Structure Conference.
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Our one day conference will allow you and your board members to work ON your ministry together as a unified group. I promise, it will pay off!
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