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Patricia Pope

February 16, 2014  2:15pm

And believe me, in churches, if your board members, elders, etc. are not Spirit-filled people, you WILL pay a price for it.

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Tim Fall

February 13, 2014  2:46pm

Marlena, thank you for this call to widen the membership of these organizations. Being wealthy and influential has certain benefits for a board of trustees or other governing body, but it's really shortsighted if those are the most valued qualifications for membership. After all, Jesus had some influential and well to do friends but the ones he chose to run things after he left were lower on the social and economic rungs. You've hit on something that also reminds me of the problems with many large conferences. Just once I'd like to see one that generates headlines such as: "Mega-pastors flock to attend conference led by pastors from tiny churches in towns no one has ever heard of! Hoping to learn how church is done in 99% of the world's congregations!" Cheers, Tim http://timfall.wordpress.com/

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Dale Hanson Bourke

February 13, 2014  9:35am

This is such an important issue, especially for Christians. Some practical ways to deal w specific orgs: 1.Take the time to make your concerns about board diversity known in writing or in a meeting. it's hard to believe but some people just don't "see" it.2. Invest your time in an organization and give (even a small amount) regularly. You really don't have to be a major donor but you probably need to show you are willing to invest a percentage of what you have, even if it's a few dollars and a few hours. 3. Volunteer to serve on board committees. Many boards allow non-members to serve. 4. Ask questions and submit names for board membership. If you are part of an organization (donor, member, etc.) you are the equivalent of a share-holder. You certainly have the right to ask questions, make suggestions, etc. 5. Find out what policies govern board member selection and rotation. If there is a financial requirement, question it. If board members don't regularly rotate, they should.

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Sarah Smith

February 12, 2014  2:32pm

While Dale's comment deals with an important issue for many foundations and para-church ministries, it does not deal with legitimate reasons for a church to have only wealthy members on its board. There is a difference between having a lot of money and being able to make wise financial situations for a church. If a board member is a tithe paying member who can steward their finances well that should be enough for a church but often it is not. This is very sad indeed.

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Ben Martin

February 12, 2014  1:52pm

While I don't question your basic point -- diversity, including economic diversity, is a good thing -- consider some of the other factors that might lead to the exclusion of the poor: 1) Board members are often chosen because they have demonstrated success in leadership, usually in business -- a worthwhile quality to seek if you want your organization to succeed. If someone has been successful in business, they likely are not among the poor. 2) Those who accept board roles have to have the time to fulfill those roles. I've been poor. The poor are usually completely tied up with the work it takes to meet basic needs and care for their family. A responsibility outside that, even if offered, is likely too much to take on even if they wanted it. 3) The poor often do not believe they have something to offer. If you're poor, you likely don't see the signs of success or wisdom in your life, so you're not likely to respond to an invitation to lead even if offered.

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PETER K Johnson

February 12, 2014  1:29pm

Amen. Very challenging thoughts. Yes, we need input from all socioeconomic levels on our church and organization boards. Every one is valuable in God's kingdom. Too many times Christian leaders tend to surround themselves with the rich and powerful, echoing the celebrity-conscious sickness of the world.

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Marlena Graves

February 12, 2014  12:26pm

Dale, thank you for your insight!

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Dale Hanson Bourke

February 12, 2014  11:37am

Great article, Marlena. The board I referenced in my article was that of World Vision. When I joined, I was the fourth woman ever on the board. Today, the board is impressively diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and, yes, economic background. It is truly a model. One factor that often influences board member choice is foundations that require the board to give at a certain level in order for the organization to qualify for a grant. I hope more and more foundations will move away from that requirement because it does skew board choice toward those who can give generously. And many organizations depend heavily on their board to raise funds from friends and associates, another reason why boards sometimes seem to be "clubby." Another need on boards is for those with financial backgrounds so they can serve on audit and finance committees, part of good governance in any organization. That's not to excuse lack of diversity; just to explain some of the factors driving choices.

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