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Break the Script!

By John Pearson

“How do you refresh a meeting that’s grown rote?” In their book, The Power of Moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath answer their own question, “Break the script.”

When I was in seminary, my pastor continually looked for ways to “break the script” on Sunday mornings—not to showcase his creativity—but to refresh our focus on our role in God’s work.

Example: For his pastoral prayer, he would exit the pulpit and walk the three steps down to the congregation’s level—and then read the headlines from the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. After each headline, he would pray for the politician, or the grieving family, or those suffering from a natural disaster in a far-off nation. Fast-forward—I still strive to read newspapers with that holy filter.

In my journey through boardrooms over the years, I’ve often wondered why board chairs and CEOs don’t “break the script” more often. As Dan Busby and I noted in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom:

“Let’s confess. Our board meetings have gotten sloppy when:

Preparation is rote.

Execution is rote.

Celebration is rote.

Follow-through is random.”

 

(Click here to read Lesson 15, “Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes.”)

But I do see encouraging signs—especially in this COVID-19 era. (How are you describing this period: era, season, year, or decade? Oh, my.)

A ministry in the Northwest conducted a “Single Topic Zoom Call” to discuss and discern God’s direction about a ministry acquisition. The four-hour session was devoted exclusively to one topic only. Brilliant!

Another board (pre-COVID) added a special meeting, with dinner in a member’s home, to seek God’s will about interim leadership. There were not 17 agenda items—just one. Every board member weighed in. There was plenty of time for possibilities and prayer.

David Curry,in “Think and Pray Outside the Box—and the County,” (Lesson 29 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom), notes: “The tyranny of the day-to-day—budgets, meetings, and yearly events to sustain life and keep the lights on—can overwhelm most leaders and sap our energy, leaving little that could be used to power a big, God-sized vision.” Curry once scheduled a board meeting at an architect’s office—so the creativity and the environment would inspire the board to “break the script.”

I was recently reminded of this “break the script” hole-in-the-roof healing in Luke 5 in The Message:

“Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, ‘Friend, I forgive your sins.’”

As you’ll recall, that set “the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing.” There were two stunning results: the healing and the crowd’s response! Jesus “spoke directly to the paraplegic: ‘Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.’ Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, ‘We’ve never seen anything like that!’”

Imagine when your board members—wanting to refresh the focus on their role in God’s work—hear people giving glory to God and saying, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”

BOARD DISCUSSION: How could we “break the script” for greater board effectiveness?

THINK ABOUT: “The average board member doesn’t read a book a year. That is why he or she is an average board member!” (Adapted from Books Are Tremendous, by Charlie “Tremendous” Jones)

MORE RESOURCES: The click-on index to 40 guest bloggers (and their 40 blogs) was posted this week at the More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog. Click here to read the 40 color commentaries, plus the 40 lessons from the book.

 

 

This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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