MedSend has an incredibly simple, but effective model. Remove the barrier to the mission field for healthcare providers by covering their educational debt. MedSend partners with a long list of sending agencies and up until the date of our podcast, MedSend had completely paid off 175 healthcare providers loans. In our podcast conversation with Rick Allen, Executive Director of MedSend, Rick shared his insights on developing an innovative board.
An Innovative Board Starts with Surrender
To start things off, an effective and innovative board starts with surrender. If your ministry truly is the Lord’s ministry, then surrender of your ministry to the Lord is crucial to developing an innovative board. That’s easy to say, but oftentimes one of the hardest things to do. It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do lists and forget that your ministries are not yours. With surrender as the starting point, we should have a clearer picture of where the Lord wants to take our ministries. Once surrender is established, we should find ourselves as leaders better positioned to lead as we truly follow God’s direction.
Is Your Board Doing Board Appropriate Work?
Now that you’ve properly surrendered your ministries and you have as clear a picture of where the Lord is guiding and directing, you want to make sure your board is doing work that is board appropriate. Many organizations start out with boards that are made up of family and friends, helping in every way they can to grow and develop the ministry. As the ministry grows they often times never grow their boards with their organizations and the board becomes an extension of the staff or volunteers. Rick encourages ministries to evaluate your boards on a regular basis and make sure that they are doing board appropriate work. Board appropriate work includes visionary work, strategy work, and financial guidance or financial development work. Does your board spend time making day to day operations decisions, or do you have them spending their time thinking about the big picture?
How Often Does Your Board Meet?
The regularity in which you meet might be an indicator of the type of board you are running. If an organization finds that they are meeting with their boards on a monthly basis, or with even greater regularity, that generally means that the board is probably functioning as an extension of the staff and volunteers, rather than a visionary group of leaders. When your board serves as an extension of the staff, the board can often times get so focused on the day to day operations of the ministry, that “they can’t see the forest through the trees.” This makes it difficult to set strategy or vision when everyone is plugged into the day-to-day operations of the ministry. Pull your board away from the day-to-day operations, and give them the space to focus on and prayerfully consider vision, strategy, and financial stability for your ministry.
A Note On Avoiding Drift
I also want to share a couple of thoughts on avoiding mission drift. If you’re running a Christian ministry, is your board comprised of leaders who share the same faith, beliefs, and values? You’d be surprised how many times we’ve heard of boards or come across boards that are not comprised completely of believers. If you’ve got members of your board that don’t share your same Christian values, principles, and beliefs, how can they possibly align with the direction your ministry might be led by the Lord? The book, Mission Drift, is a great resource for this very subject and idea. Some of the greatest organizations in the world have turned secular and moved completely away from their Christian roots, sometimes even turning hostile towards Christianity, because the leadership slowly compromised and turned away from Christian values and beliefs. This is something that usually happens slowly over time, but rest assured, it starts when board and leadership positions are slowly filled by people who don’t share Christ-centered values. It’s easy to say, “if we just don’t talk about Jesus so much, we might open up opportunities for funds and resources outside of the Christian world.” WARNING, that’s a dangerous game to play, and historically, it hasn’t ended well for the organizations that have gone that route. Don’t let history repeat itself with your ministry. Now, with that said, if you’re organization works in places that are hostile to the gospel, and you need to protect your national partners, there are places and spaces for careful communication, but that’s a topic for another article.
A Board Case Study
Remember, the regularity in which you meet with your board can tell you a lot about how your board might be functioning. MedSend meets twice a year in person, and once via phone or conference call. The in-person meetings last 2-3 days and often times Rick will bring in subject matter experts to share or give presentations on the subject or direction Rick would like his board to consider. Rick “recently” brought a significant and innovative change to how MedSend would function moving into the future. The strategy and idea took 3 years to get passed through the board. Now, part of this delay was the regularity in which MedSend meets (2-3 times per year), but the major factor in that delay was the board pressed, prodded, and encouraged Rick to develop his idea throughout those 3 years. It took patience on everyone’s part, but when the board finally Ok’d the idea, MedSend had a fully developed and thorough plan of action for moving forward. The result? MedSend has a new direction that is brilliant and will significantly impact the effectiveness of the ministry moving into the future.
Rick encourages ministries to have patience with their boards. If you set your board up appropriately, they should be pushing back on and making you as the leader think about the things you want to move on. If the board had not pushed back and encouraged Rick to dig deeper, the rollout of his idea might not have ever gotten traction or been as effective as quickly as it was. The process might’ve been painful, but the patience ultimately paid off in the end.
Developing an innovative and effective board might mean significant changes to your current board. But, the ramifications for your ministry could be significant. Spend some time this week thinking about your current board. If you’ve got an innovative one that functions well, thank them for their service to your ministry. That reality is more often than not, NOT the norm.
If you’re looking for resources or consultancy to help with your board development, Rick references EFCA as a great resource for all of the above.