Updated: Nov 18, 2019
If you have never been to a board meeting you may understand why I need Shakespeare to help me consider my decision. If you have been a board member, by now you found you didn’t need to rely on the Bard after all.
Let me explain. I job share, working as a senior leader of a Baptist church. And as anyone who knows anything would know, we Baptist do love our boards. Part of the job means I need to be on the board. Decision made? Not really. Job sharing means I could legitimately get out of it because board meetings could easily be covered by my work colleague and therefore need not be part of my job description. (Anyone who has ever experienced board meetings in Baptist circles might agree this is a good idea!) I almost did take the easy option but honest reflection changed my mind.
I had never been on a board. Hearsay on the subject of boards made me feel there was nothing in my skillset that would lend itself to a board. Neither, to be honest, was board membership something I was interested in.
Problem number one: Making a decision to say ‘I can’t’ based on what I don’t know and have no experience of. How would I know if I’m a good board member, I’ve never done it before?
Problem number two: I’ve never been on a board! Ultimately fear was driving me – fear that I’d fail, fear of making a fool of myself, fear I might agree to something I should have voted against. The list of fears is endless when you don’t know what you are doing.
There is a measure of truth to fear. I didn’t know how to be a good board member, but note the past tense. I didn’t know how to do the job, but I do now. It was a skill I learned. In the past month I even noticed a mistake in how the minutes were being taken. Only you and I know how proud I felt about that.
I was not qualified to be a board member. I did not have the experience. I did not grasp the job description. I lacked some of the skill set necessary.
I learned them.
I agreed to take the position on the board to gain the experience. I found out before my first board meeting what the remit and responsibility of being a board member was, and I asked specifics as to my job description. I am still getting lessons on reading financial reports, (I could write a whole paper just on spread sheets!) I didn’t attempt to learn during board meetings, I did it before and after meetings although there were times when I had to pluck up the courage to ask for clarification during the meeting. Sitting dumb and writing a list of questions to ask after the meeting is not a part of the job description. That was just fear operating again. I now ask my questions as they arise, as it is part of my responsibility as a board member.
Lifting the lid on fears doesn’t mean suddenly realising I can do the job brilliantly; it just means a willingness to find out whether or not I can do the job. Inexperience does not mean I’m inadequate, and lack of confidence does not mean that I am disqualified from trying. I may lack experience and I may lack confidence but I don’t lack the ability to learn, which is why I’m determined to try whenever new opportunities present themselves.
Julie Gardiner has worked with churches in the UK and in Australia, with a particular focus on mentoring women in leadership. She and her husband Daniel are Co-Senior Leaders at Christies Beach Baptist Church, where she exercises her passion for social justice and community projects. Julie studies a Master of Ministry at Tabor College, Adelaide. She has a passion to bring together theology and praxis so that what Christians confess about our faith shows in the way we live. She has twin sons and great daughters in law.