As leaders, we are often task-driven. We are ready to get down to business. There is an agenda before us and a timeline to meet. As leaders, we are expected to get things done and often have driven, achiever personalities. In our rush to “do,” we often skip one important beginning step.  We don’t always have a conversation and agreement on how we will do our work together, what expectations we have of one another, and how we will hold ourselves accountable. While setting our task list aside for this foundational work may feel uncomfortable at first, it will save monumental amounts of time down the road. 

In working with leadership boards (particularly with boards/teams practicing accountable leadership), I offer these reasons and insights for your leadership boards, staff teams, and ministry teams to consider as a case for considering leadership covenants:

  • A covenant provides clear and specific expectations of team members’ responsibilities and authority (i.e., attendance, engagement, preparedness, phone etiquette, etc.).
  • The covenant outlines what leadership qualities are expected and will be modeled for the congregation (i.e., specifics around prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness).
  • A leadership covenant states expectations pertaining to confidentiality (sharing with no one means no one including a spouse or family member) to avoid any confusion.  Remember, a spouse or family member is not bound by the covenant, so once it leaves the lips of the team member the covenant is broken.
  • The covenant identifies who and how to hold one another accountable to the terms and agreements outlined in the covenant as well as repercussions for not following the covenant.  
  • The covenant states how conflict will be handled (i.e.,as outlined in Matthew 18).
  • It is recommended that the covenant provide expectations on how leaders are to engage in difficult conversations. For example, leaders are expected to invest in transparent, honest conversations with vulnerability and openness. If leaders are not willing to have these conversations at the table and instead have them in the parking lot, the team will not be unified or be able to move forward in a way that is effective and trusting of one another.
  • Once a team/board decision is made, all members will fully support the team’s decisions regardless of their personal thoughts or feelings on the topic. A unified leadership voice is critical for the team and the church.
  • Leaders are expected to fully support and uphold the mission, vision, and core values of the church through their decisions, actions, words, and how they align the use of the church’s resources. If leaders can’t commit to this covenant, they should not be serving as leaders.
  • Triangulation should not be tolerated at any level. Rather, transparency with the full team should be practiced. Triangulation is an unhealthy leadership trait and will divert the team from its purpose.
  • Team/boards need to review and make any recommendations and edits to their covenant at least annually as new members roll on and off.  If it is simply a cut and paste exercise every year, the covenant becomes meaningless. I also recommend that members physically sign the covenant each year as a witness to their commitment and understanding of the covenant. The signed covenant then becomes a part of the digital packet for leadership boards to review ahead of their meetings as an on-going reminder of how they have agreed to do their work together.

For more information or assistance on creating leadership covenants, check out the book, Mission Possible: A Simple Structure for Missional Effectiveness where you’ll find covenant examples and more information.