Father and son

How young is the youngest member of your board? Student representatives aside, do you have a board member who is under 30? Under 40?

We live in a hyper-technological world where terms like "crowd-sourcing," "cloud computing" and "Moodle" are mainstream terms in the cultural lexicon. And the rising generation of seminary students is predictably different (demographically, ideologically, and theologically) from previous generations. It seems reasonable to think that leaders in their 30s and early 40s more intuitively understand some of these new opportunities -- and challenges -- and can help keep a board abreast of the changing realities of educational innovation.

Recent research shows that almost two-thirds of nonprofit board members are over 50.  To be sure, many theological school boards have some (or all) seats chosen by bishops, conferences, or other church bodies, but many others are self-perpetuating and free-standing. When boards choose their own members, a myriad of factors determine who is chosen. 

It is natural (and necessary) to recruit "heavy hitters" to the board who can provide wisdom, experience, and executive-level expertise, and who can attract new sources of funding to their schools. These often fall into that upper age range.

But well-selected younger members can bring much-needed energy, insight and emerging social perspectives to a theological school's governing board. If they are to have a real impact, these younger members ought to be trusted with real responsibilities.  

How might a board resource committee go about looking for younger members?  

  • Look for up-and-coming church leaders on the national scene who are shaking things up, but who might also be looking for deeper institutional connections. Read the magazines, follow the blogs, and see whose star is just beginning to rise.
  • Scan the local "40 under 40" lists for local entrepreneurs and community leaders. Some of these local movers and shakers are also committed lay people.  
  • Seek out mid-career administrators and faculty from other educational institutions -- including theological schools -- who can help keep the board up to date on current developments in higher education.

The under-40 crowd has much to offer. Sometimes they have more time and somewhat fewer commitments. Many are eager to learn and to contribute. If recruited wisely and treated well, younger board members can bring invaluable ideas and connectivity to your board from the next generations of leaders.

Young businesspeople ready to step up

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