Church Board Improv

In church life, January–not April–can seem like the cruelest month.  All the routine meetings, tasks, and assignments that everyone deferred in December land back on the calendar with a thud.  And there are budgets to finalize, and often congregational annual meetings, and sometimes new board members to orient and install.

But January is also an opportunity to reset the imagination of your church board.  It can be a time to…

…enhance the “business” of decision-making with a renewed devotion to prayer and study within the board meeting;

…do less “command and control” thinking and more discerning and listening;

…privilege building relationships among board members over running a “Robert’s Rules of Order” type of meeting.

In this spirit, we offer a shift in imagination for your board meetings in 2020.  What if your board thought of itself as an improv troupe?  What if you studied the rules of improv rather than Robert’s Rules of Order this year?

Del Close (1934-1999), who dedicated his life to improvisational theater, developed the following “Eleven Commandments for Improv.”  As you and your board members read through them together, consider: How might following these commandments change the functioning of our church board for the better in 2020? Which among the eleven would be most difficult for us to incorporate—and why? Which might be the most valuable for our board work—and why?

Eleven Commandments for Improv, attributed to Del Close.*

  • You are all supporting actors.


  • Always check your impulses.


  • Never enter a scene unless you are needed.


  • Save your fellow actor, don`t worry about the piece.


  • Your prime responsibility is to support.


  • Work at the top of your brains at all times.


  • Never underestimate or condescend to your audience.


  • No jokes (unless it is tipped in front that it is a joke).


  • Trust… trust your fellow actors to support you; trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them; trust yourself.


  • Avoid judging what is going down except in terms of whether it needs help (either by entering or cutting), what can best follow, or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is called for.


  • Listen.


(* – with appreciation to Marthame Sanders and Kristy Farber for referring us to this.)

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