Points on the Triangle: Content

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Last week, we shared a conversation triangle, a diagram that can help you analyze where your church board meetings get ‘stuck’ and improve the flow of discussion in future meetings.

At their best, church board meetings move dynamically among the three points that form this triangle:  content, individual experience, and common work.  (At their worst, they get stuck on just one point and never move at all.)  Over the next three weeks, we will take a closer look at each point on the triangle, starting with content.

There is significant theological grounding for the centrality of content in church board meetings.  In the Gospel of John, the disciples press Jesus for their job description, asking “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  Jesus replies:

 “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.     (John 6:29-35)

Jesus does not hand them an orientation binder, a calendar of responsibilities by month, a sign-up sheet for volunteer duties, or an org chart of committee assignments.  Jesus talks with them about belief, and, emphatically, about “the bread of God … which …  gives life to the world.”  Surely, in our board meetings, we should talk with one another about these things as well.  And focusing on some rich, life-giving content is a way to start.

 This life-giving content can come from every corner of God’s creation and assuredly includes scripture – but is not limited to scripture.  It also takes the form of contemporary research, complex ideas, conceptual frameworks, poetry, art, stories, and more.  Introduced into the flow of meetings in a regular way, this rich material can nurture deeper conversation about the board’s tasks, offer insight and grounding, and help everyone see their responsibilities in a bigger frame.

So where do you find such good content?  Some ideas:

The search function at the Poetry Foundation website is amazing.  Try entering a word  –  “providence,” “hope,” “resurrection” – and an abundance of possible resources will display.

Data can provide good content for discussion, placing your congregation’s challenges in the context of larger trends.  Pew Research Center, Ryan Burge’s Graphs about Religion, and Barna Research are three sites that regularly provide important insight.

Several Substacks have one eye on cultural trends and another eye on how those trends impact human flourishing and life in community.  The key is, they don’t have to be specifically about faith.  Both church staffs and church boards can become echo chambers that only repeat insider views in insider language.  Step outside the church bubble and see how those in business, the arts, advocacy, law, or medicine are addressing today’s issues.  Pay special attention to where the life of faith is conspicuously absent, or where it has become too comfortable.

Offer for discussion a provocative review of a recent art exhibit.  Share a thoughtful book review.  Use a section of a short story.  Or bring in next Sunday’s scripture text, or last Sunday’s, as a place to start.

The options are endless.  Just offer something that you can place in the middle of the room for rich discussion with diverse perspectives.  (And, of course, you can always search past posts of Digging a Deeper Well.)

Countercultural as it may seem, focusing together on ‘the bread of God which gives life to the world’ is the purpose and joy of a church board.  Varied, deep, interesting, irreducible content is the place to start.

No board should ever gather without a focus on giving life to the world.



What is your job description as a church board member?  Can you name a compelling element of that description?


What are the disciples asking Jesus for, in John 6?


Why do you think Jesus answers the disciples as he does?


How often do you focus (really focus) on life-giving content in your church board meetings?


When you do that together, what happens?  When you skip that, what doesn’t happen?


If you were to go to the Poetry Foundation web site in search of a poem for your next church board meeting, what word would you search for?  What might you find?

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