Tap! Tap! Tap!

Does the Spirit hear a busy signal when nudging your board?


by Dan Busby and John Pearson


If we are to engage in meaningful spiritual discernment with others,
and listen well for His will for our shared ministry life,
we first need to tend to the state of our own hearts.[1]

Stephen A. Macchia

Your church board meetings probably always open and close with prayer. Some of your board members would certainly consider anything less to be sacrilege!

What about between the opening and closing bell at your board meetings? Does your board send up prayers at appropriate times? Is your board meeting ever interrupted by the spontaneous singing of the Doxology?

Granted, the review of the minutes from the last board meeting may not inspire prayer. Neither are we suggesting that church boards should routinely pray for most board agenda items. This could reduce prayer to a perfunctory level.

But investing time in prayer should not be limited to those challenging fork-in-the-road board decisions. Share prayers of thanksgiving to celebrate God’s hand in achieving a significant goal.

The arms of your senior pastor may be weary. Pray after your board hears the senior pastor’s report or when you sense the load is heavy. Remember in Exodus 17:12 how Aaron and Hur held up Moses’s hands, one on each side. “So his hands remained steady until sunset.” A prayer of encouragement can have a similar effect for your senior pastor.

Based on many years of board service, it is our observation that boards often miss prime opportunities to be empowered by our Heavenly Father. It’s this simple: God’s power is revealed in the boardroom when board members pray together and discern together.

God wants to release His power in your boardroom. This power may come in the form of:

  • Wisdom—a plan of action that the board cannot determine on its own.
  • Courage—more than the board could ever muster on its own.
  • Confidence—uncommon belief that the board is on the right track.
  • A Miracle—when God moves givers to fill a huge financial need, beyond human comprehension.

Our colleague Stephen A. Macchia explains the nudge of the Holy Spirit as the “Tap! Tap! Tap!” of the Spirit on our hearts.[2] How can your board avoid missing that nudge from the Holy Spirit? Let us share a few ways:

  • Realize we need God’s help. God’s power comes when boards realize they cannot handle things on their own. Board members should enter the boardroom with a receptivity to hearing from the Holy Spirit. This attitude is the opposite of asserting that we have all the answers in and of ourselves. Tap! Tap! Tap!
  • Develop the discipline of stillness. Too often, boards do not seize opportunities to be still. They do not become quiet and mindfully listen for His voice. Times of stillness and solitude were important to Jesus (Mark 1:35). The Apostle Peter went up on the roof to pray at lunchtime, and God talked to him there (Acts 10:9-20). Scripture is replete with examples of those who took time to hear what God had to say to them. Tap! Tap! Tap!
  • Commit to slow down—lower the RPMs. If the board is running behind on its agenda and the pace of the meeting is moving too quickly, it may seem like taking time to pray for key decisions imposes on the meeting schedule. It is possible to be aware of God’s gentle promptings through­out the board meeting and still efficiently complete the agenda. Tap! Tap! Tap!
  • Understand that any board member can feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit. It may seem as if only the board chair should call for prayer during the meeting. Not so—every board member has equal access to the Holy Spirit hotline. The board chair should make it clear that all board members should feel free to “raise the flag” when they sense that it is time for prayer. Tap! Tap! Tap!

St. Ignatius identified three distinct possibilities related to making Spirit-filled choices:

  1. A revelatory time—beyond a shadow of a doubt, the conviction to make a decision is crystal clear (Saul fell to the ground, blinded by the light in Acts 9:34).
  2. A discerning time—facing big decisions, interior movements of consolation or desolation pull you toward or push you away from a decision.[3]
  3. A waiting time—like a sailboat without any wind, there is no strong consolation or desolation.

A revelatory time may not require prayer during a board meeting. But when a board is in a discerning or a waiting time, prayer is often just what is needed.

When a board prays regularly, sincerely, and specifically during board meetings, God will answer these prayers and He will be glorified.

Stephen A. Macchia says that most boards are led by well-meaning, gracious-hearted, thought-provoking leaders. “But without a continued dependence upon God, we ultimately shift toward human wisdom, and without meaning any harm, we end up missing the ‘Tap! Tap! Tap!’ of God’s Spirit. It is the ‘Tap!’ that’s most important. That’s God at work, and we don’t want to miss his presence, power, direction, and peace.”[4]



Does the Spirit hear a busy signal when nudging your board?
All board members must attuneto the Spirit,
and raise the prayer flag
when prompted on behalf of the entire board.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Read: Ask one or more board members to read (and report on) Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, especially chapter 10, “Get Set: From Decision Making to Discernment.”[5] Also, to further inspire and equip your board, work through the questions found in Chapter 7 of The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance by Gary G. Hoag, Wesley K. Willmer, and Gregory J. Henson.[6]

  2. Review: Reflect on your recent board meetings. Were there times when the board should have stopped to pray but did not?

  3. Listen: Be alert for those Tap! Tap! Tap! moments in board meetings. Then stop and pray.



Lord, nudge our board when You want us to stop—
even in the middle of a board meeting—
and ask for Your guidance. Amen.



[1] Stephen A. Macchia, “Spiritual Discernment: Emerging from a Burning or Burned Out Heart?”  ECFA Focus on Accountability (Third Quarter 2011), 4.

[2] Stephen A. Macchia, “Restoring Leaders’ Souls: Your Spiritual Needs Must Be a Priority,” CLA Outcomes (Spring 2011), 28–32

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 67.

[4] Stephen A. Macchia, “Tap! Tap! Tap!” Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (blog), January 31, 2018.  http://nonprofitboardroom. blogspot.com/2018/01/lesson-11-tap-tap-tap.html.

[5] Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012).

[6] Gary G. Hoag, Wesley K. Willmer, and Gregory J. Henson, The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance (Winchester, VA: ECFAPress, 2018), 88-91.


From Lessons From the Church Boardroom: 40 Insights for Exceptional Governance, ECFAPress, 2018, www.ECFA.Church/KnowledgeCenter.

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.