Time is of the essence in board service, and not because that service is often constrained by term limits or by the tight agendas of too much board work crammed into formal board meetings. Time is of the essence because we and the institutions we steward have a life. That is, we live in time. These days, the press of the urgent can obscure this bigger picture.

Time is of the essence because each board member has a life. Our lives are crisscrossed with new and old connections to family, church, work, and voluntary service. While the many connections stretch us, they also wire the circuitry for the information and insight that build an interactive network. These wired lives enrich boards.

Time is of the essence because each school has a life. Our theological schools were born in time through the labors and visions of founders. They were sustained through many hard times by the ingenuity and self-sacrifice of those tending them. Today's stewards live off that legacy while they struggle to address current problems and issues for the sake of the church and world.

Time is of the essence because in the afterglow of Christmas, we are reminded that we live in the fullness of time. We know that the Savior of the nations who has come will return to fulfill God's promise of renewing all that has been created in time.

As we live in this big picture of time, we cultivate the wisdom necessary to be good stewards of theological schools. Our schools need not best practices, but wise practices—wise practices nurtured by timely awareness of each historic school's institutional realities and contextual opportunities.

Board members are ready to exercise wise practices when they are familiar with their school and on equal footing with their board peers. What does each board member need to know in order to be on equal footing? Try out this very specific, preliminary list and then assess your board's practices and policies for their timeliness.

  • The elevator speech. How to speak briefly and compellingly about the seminary's mission and the vision guiding its current work.

  • The scope of the board's fiduciary role. What the board is mandated to do by the school's charter and bylaws, church policy, the board's own policies, and the standards mandated by government, accreditation, accounting, and insurance agencies.

  • The board's angle of focus. What issues are strategic to the school's future.

  • Pertinent assessment. In light of strategic issues, what to look for in measuring and strengthening both the president's and the board's performance.

  • Strategic indicators. What to monitor over time vis-à-vis the school's finances, resource development, enrollment, and educational systems.

  • Peer school comparisons. What to know in tracking the school's performance among other theological schools, both those admired and those in competition.

  • Board members. The names, professions, unique perspectives, and personal interests of board colleagues.

  • Other partners in governance. The names and commitments of members of the president's cabinet, faculty leaders, and church and/or university authorities.

  • Representative stakeholders. Acquaintance with those representative faculty members, students, and graduates whose work embodies the school's mission.

  • The school's historic saga. The stories of how and why the school successfully and unsuccessfully responded to past challenges.

  • Potential donors and advocates. Among one's personal network of friends and contacts, those who can be cultivated to support the school.

  • Personal performance. The quality of each board member's own engagement in light of personal capacity and the board's expectations for service.

This may be your school's year for reviewing board assumptions and practices, expectations and policies. After all, time is of the essence.

Christa R. Klein's signature

Christa R. Klein

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Roles & Responsibilities
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