To stay focused on the mission, a school's board members must be guided and redirected as a school's needs change in response to a shifting environment. Using the metaphor of a ship, Tracy Schier likens board orientation to the compass guiding a seminary toward “true north” -- the school’s mission. If a board is going to avoid getting lost at sea, orientation is vital for new and continuing board members alike.

In a Summer 2012 article, Schier outlines general steps for orienting new board members. For example, prior to their first board meeting, Schier suggests new board members be provided with a number of documents, including the mission and strategic plan; the board handbook and bylaws; and a statement of board expectations, among others. She also provides suggestions for building board relationships, including immediately assigning new members to committees and allowing time for socialization at board meetings.

Finally, Schier stresses the importance of continuing board member education, both through continued attendance of formal orientations and through reports of the governance committee. Continuing the ship metaphor, Schier indicates that the governance committee is “the keeper of the compass,” guiding the proverbial ship to its true north.

If you have an online In Trust account, you can read Schier’s full article.

The In Trust Center also has other resources on board orientation and education, including “Wise stewards: The roles and responsibilities of boards in theological education” and articles such as “Strong boards, strong schools.” If you have questions about board orientation or would like some guidance, feel free to contact us at resources@intrust.org